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Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC)

Answers to frequently asked questions about interpreter certification

UPDATE: DWC's interpreter services regulations, which were originally effective Aug. 13, 2013, were extended by AB 1376's amendment of Labor Code section 4600(g), to March 1, 2014. You can find more information about interpreter certification for CCHI and the National Board on the DWC website.

Q. The injured employee's first language is not English. Is the employee entitled to the services of an interpreter in connection with a workers' compensation case?

A. Not necessarily. An injured employee is entitled to the services of a qualified interpreter in specified settings if he or she does not proficiently speak or understand the English language.

Q. What are the workers' compensation settings in which interpreter services must be provided to an injured employee who does not proficiently speak or understand the English language?

A. Interpreter services must be provided at a deposition, at an appeals board hearing, at a medical-legal examination, and at a medical treatment appointment.

Q. Are the standards the same for interpreters at all workers' compensation settings?

A. No. There are different standards for interpreters depending on if they are interpreting at (1) a hearing, deposition or arbitration or (2) for medical appointments or medical legal exams.

Q. How do I become qualified to interpret at a hearing, deposition or arbitration?

A. To qualify to be paid for interpreter services at a hearing, deposition or arbitration, you must be:

  1. certified, which means listed on the State Personnel Board webpage at or the California Courts webpage; or
  2. provisionally certified, which means deemed qualified to perform interpreter services when a certified interpreter cannot be present, either: (A) by agreement of the parties, or (B) based on a finding by the workers' compensation administrative law judge conducting a hearing that the interpreter is qualified to interpret at the hearing, or by the arbitrator conducting the arbitration that the interpreter is qualified to interpret at the arbitration. The finding of the judge or arbitrator and the basis for the finding must be set forth in the record of proceedings.

Q. How do I become certified to interpret at a medical appointment or medical legal exam?

A. To qualify to be paid for interpreter services at a medical treatment appointment or medical legal exam, you must be:

  1. certified, which means listed on the State Personnel Board webpage at or the California Courts webpage; or
  2. certified for medical treatment appointments or medical legal exams, which means either
  • passing the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) exam evidenced by a CCHI certification/credential indicating that the interpreter passed the exam and specifying the language, if indicated. The certification procedure is set forth on the CCHI webpage. The CCHI certification/credentials are valid for four years from the date when CCHI granted/issued the credential. Individuals who are granted a CCHI certification or credential must comply with the CCHI requirements to be recertified within this four-year period to maintain their certification/credential. Questions about an application may be sent by email to apply@healthcareinterpretercertification.org or to CCHI, 1725 I Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC, 20006 (866-969-6656); or
  • passing the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (National Board) exams evidenced by a National Board credential indicating that the interpreter passed the exams and specifying the language. The certification procedure is set forth on the National Board webpage. The National Board certification is valid for five years from the date when National Board granted/issued the certification. Individuals who are granted a National Board certification must comply with the National Board requirements to be recertified within this five year period to maintain their certification. Questions about an application may be sent by email to info@certifiedmedicalinterpreters.org or to National Board, P.O. Box 300, Stow, MA 01775 (1-765-633-2378); or
  • being provisionally certified as an interpreter for purposes of medical treatment appointments or medical legal exams (A) if the claims administrator has given prior written consent to the interpreter who provides the services, or (B) the injured worker requires interpreter services in a language other than Spanish, Tagalog, Arabic, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Vietnamese, in which case the physician may use a provisionally certified interpreter if that fact is noted in the record of the medical evaluation.

Q. How quickly can I get certified?

A. You can find helpful instructions on how to get started with certification for CCHI and the National Board on the DWC website.

Q. Where can I find a certified interpreter?

A. Certified interpreters are listed on the State Personnel Board webpage at or the California Courts webpage. Certified interpreters for the purposes of medical treatment appointments and medical legal exams are listed in the registry for Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) or National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (National Board).

Q. What if a certified interpreter isn't listed on the CCHI or National Board websites? Can he or she still interpret at a medical treatment appointment or medical legal exam?

A. For medical treatment appointments or medical legal exam, an interpreter may be provisionally certified (A) if the claims administrator has given prior written consent to the interpreter who provides the services, or (B) the injured worker requires interpreter services in a language other than Spanish, Tagalog, Arabic, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Vietnamese, in which case the physician may use a provisionally certified interpreter if that fact is noted in the record of the medical evaluation.

Q: What if I just received my certification and my name isn't listed on the website directories yet?

A. A claims administrator may request proof of certification and the same must be provided by a certified interpreter for the purposes of medical treatment appointments and medical legal exams if the interpreter is not listed on the CCHI or National Board website directory.

January 2014