Update: California Assembly Bill 5 and Its Possible Effects on Interpreters and Translators


If you are already up to speed on California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), feel free to scroll to the bottom of the page to the “What Can You Do?” section where we have two specific things you can do to ensure interpreters and translators will continue to have the right to work as independent contractors in California.

Background


On August 7, 2019, we published a blog calling our readers’ attention to California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5). This bill is continuing to make its way through the State Legislature with the next important milestone in the legislative process scheduled for August 30, 2019, when all bills on the “suspense file” (where AB5 was placed at a legislative committee meeting on August 12) will be heard.


The bill still needs to include a partial exemption for translators and interpreters because if passed by the California Senate in its current form, the bill would have dire consequences for our professions.


InterpretAmerica has made its position on AB5 very clear. In its current form, it’s bad for interpretation and translation and it’s bad for the vast majority of translators and interpreters who are independent contractors by choice. Perhaps more notably, it’s bad for California business in general but particularly for women and minority entrepreneurs who make up the majority of translators and interpreters in the state.


We recognize that there are some interpreters who do work for one agency or client only and that there have been cases of misclassification of interpreters as independent contractors when they were basically obliged to work as if they were employees. These colleagues deserve the protection of the law and fair treatment. If they are being treated as employees, they shoud have the benefits and protections that full-time employment provides.


Therefore, we recommend that the language of AB5 be revised to state that “all translators and interpreters who work for three or more entities in one year are exempted.” This language will ensure that freelance interpreters and translators may continue to work as such in the state of California but also provide protection for those interpreters who work exclusively for one or two entities.


How Did We Get Here?


Since our previous post, we have seen a number of positive developments.


- The United States Region of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) issued a statement on August 12, supporting an exemption for translators and interpreters to the provisions of AB5. In the statement, AIIC USA Region Chair David Violet wrote, “We respectfully ask that conference interpreters’ freedom to choose independent contractor status be respected and that the profession of conference interpreter be included on the list of professions exempted from the employee status requirements of California Assembly Bill 5 and the Dynamex Decision.”


- The American Translators Association (ATA) issued a statement supporting an exemption for translators and interpreters to AB5, noting that “the current version of California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) will improperly classify the majority of our members as employees, when in fact they are independent contractors, by choice, and work on a freelance basis with multiple clients, by design.”


- On Monday, August 12, a delegation of interpreters from across California traveled to Sacramento to attend a key committee meeting on AB5 and lobby key legislators and organizations. Their presence in the state capital was crucial to making sure our voices were heard.


- On August 21, the language industry news site Slator.com published an article chronicling the efforts of interpreter associations and individual interpreters to introduce an exemption into the bill for translators and interpreters giving further visibility to the issue.


- On August 25, The American Association of Language Specialists (TAALS) published a position statement fully endorsing the position set forth by the United States Region of AIIC.


In spite of these demonstrations of support for a partial exemption from three important professional associations for interpreters in the United States, at publication time, the bill’s sponsors, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and the California Labor Federation, have not yet introduced an exemption for translators and interpreters in the bill’s text. Language defining this partial exemption must be included in the draft legislation by August 30.


What Can You Do?


The clock is still ticking. Here are two specific things you can do to make your voice heard:


First, if you haven’t read and decided whether to sign the petition on change.org, please do so now. At publication time, the petition had over 4,100 signatures. The more signatures we have, the stronger our position will be. As written, AB5 will be detrimental to the vast majority of translators and interpreters, because it will force an employment status upon us that we do not want and that will damage our ability to make a living.


Second, if you live in California, contact your state senator and let them know that you support this partial exemption for translators and interpreters to AB5. If you don’t know who your senator is, you can find out here. Tell them to support AB5 with the language granting a partial exemption.

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InterpretAmerica, LLC was established in 2009 to provide a national and international forum for the interpreting profession.

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