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Employee or Independent Contractor: What the Dynamex Ruling Might Mean for Language Services Providers

April 15th, 2019 by

What would it mean to your LSP business if you had to hire your interpreters as employees? The question is receiving intense interest since a California ruling tightened the classification of independent contractors. While the court’s decision was designed to provide fair treatment for workers, it presents difficult problems for the language services industry.

The Dynamex Ruling

The Dynamex decision came after drivers brought a class-action suit against Dynamex, a delivery company they worked for. Dynamex had fired them as employees and hired them back as independent contractors. The delivery company’s goal was to save their company money. By making this change, they unfairly avoided giving the workers benefits and rights that are lawfully due to employees.

The court’s ruling used an ABC test to determine if the worker should rightfully be treated as an employee or an independent contractor. The worker must be considered an employee for wage purposes unless they prove each of the three criteria:

A: The worker controls where, when, and how they do the work.

B: The worker does work that isn’t the hiring entity’s usual business.

C: The worker is independently established in their trade or business.

The Dynamex ruling is just one example of how state rules are changing. Since the Dynamex ruling, California businesses are faced with the possibility that, to stay compliant with the law, they must employ people who have previously provided services as independent contractors. Although this rule hasn’t been codified into California law, that process is underway.

How LSPs Are Different and Why It Matters

The Dynamex situation was a clear case of a company trying to take unfair advantage of their workers. That’s not typically the case with LSPs. Language services providers have many very good reasons to work with independent contractors rather than hire their interpreters as employees.

  • LSPs use interpreters according to the languages they provide. If the worker only interprets languages that are uncommon, they may be used only on rare occasions.
  • Interpreters are highly educated and skilled and are well-paid as independent contractors.
  • Because there are so many languages that need to be interpreted, hiring interpreters for all needs would be too much of a burden on their business. So, lesser-used languages might not be available.
  • Courts, hospitals, social services, government, and other entities are required by law to provide interpreters for anyone who needs them. LSPs aren’t just wanted and needed. They’re required.

What This Decision Might Mean to LSPs

Most LSPs are currently operating with interpreters working for them as independent contractors. If these workers had to be hired as employees, the industry would have to change drastically. The only other option is to prove the ABC test.

The A prong of the test is easy. It’s been the standard for a long time. The B prong could be a problem for most LSPs, who hire interpreters for their interpreter services business. The C prong could be overcome if the interpreters took steps to establish themselves in their occupation. For instance, they could put up a website, get business cards, and set up a business structure. So, it’s the B prong that causes the greatest concern.

What You Can Do

What can you do about this situation as an LSP? First, you can inform yourself. Learn about what’s already changing and keep up to date on the situation. Then, you can talk to other LSPs, write your legislators, and get involved in group efforts aimed at pushing governments to craft better laws. Language services providers can increase their chances of survival by getting involved and making their voices heard.

5 Critical Issues in Court Interpreting

February 12th, 2019 by

Through various legislative acts and executive orders, court interpreting has received recognition as a vital part of the judicial system. Yet, the demand for court interpreters has far exceeded their availability. Meanwhile, the courts, language services companies, and the court interpreters themselves are currently facing several critical issues.

1. Problems with Certifying Court Interpreters

Certification ensures that interpreters have the necessary skills to relay legal information and testimony in a specific language. The problem is that there isn’t always a program for certification. There is no exam for Hawaiian interpreters, for example. Oklahoma’s court interpreter certification program started only four years ago. These aren’t isolated examples, either; more certification programs are needed all over the country.

2. Shortage of Court Interpreters for Indigenous Languages

In several jurisdictions, there’s been an upsurge in defendants who speak indigenous languages. In Oregon, requests for indigenous language court interpreters increased by 42% from 2015 to 2016. There, more court interpreters have been requested for indigenous languages like Mam, O’aniob’al, and K’iche.

It’s crucial that the interpreter can speak the same specific dialect as the defendant. Unfortunately, the number of court interpreters who speak indigenous languages is not enough to meet the need.

3. Inconsistent Need

The need for any specific language to be interpreted is far from predictable. This is especially true of languages that are spoken by fewer Americans. When a defendant requests a Hawaiian interpreter in Maui, the court must meet her needs, even when she is the only person to make such a request that year.

Interpreters can’t just relocate to where they’re needed, because the need keeps changing locations. That means they have to be ready to travel, or work via virtual interpretation platforms.

4. Lack of Funding for Court Interpreters

Despite the legal requirement to provide interpretation services, court budgets rarely have adequate room to hire enough court interpreters and keep them on staff. Minnesota’s Mower County nearly let their court interpreter go to cut costs.

In the end, the county decided the interpreter was too vital to their goals and shouldn’t be dismissed. Many other counties face the same financial dilemma. In many cases, it’s the freelance interpreters that take over those roles.

5. Difficulties with Scheduling

Scheduling court interpreters can be a nightmare for everyone concerned. Courts must first determine the need for an interpreter for a case. Then, they have to find a qualified court interpreter who can be at court at the right time to interpret the needed language.

Language services companies must contact the interpreters they work with and set up the appointments, either for in-person interpreting or virtual interpreting services. The interpreters themselves must arrange their schedules to be available for that and often several other court interpreting jobs in a day.

Interpreter scheduling is easier when you use an interpreter platform tailored to the needs of the language services industry. Contact Interpreter Intelligence today to find out about a unique interpreter platform that helps with scheduling, payments, and interpreter management. The challenges of court interpreting are real. Interpreter Intelligence is ready to help you find the solutions.

Subpoenaing the Trump-Putin Interpreter: Pros and Cons

January 19th, 2019 by

Congress Democrats want State Department interpreter Marina Gross to answer questions about the July 2018 meeting between Trump and Putin. The idea was first suggested almost immediately after the summit was over, when it became clear that there might be no other way to discover what was said in the meeting.

The question is, would this be a positive step, not only for Congress, but for the government, the interpreters, and the American public?

Pros

At first thought, subpoenaing an interpreter might seem like a brilliant idea. Here are a few reasons why the idea is so appealing in this case.

One Reliable Witness

There were exactly two Americans in the Helsinki meeting: the American president and the interpreter. Since Trump’s behavior is in question, that leaves only one person who can offer an objective account. At the face of it, it would make sense to ask that one person for the details.

Extreme Secrecy

This Trump-Putin summit was no ordinary meeting. The secrecy before, during, and after the meeting was far outside the norm. The interpreter, usually privy to inside information about the upcoming meeting, was often excluded.

An Extraordinary Situation

Even those who recognize the need for interpreters to maintain confidentiality may say, “Yes, but this situation warrants the intrusion.” After all, the details could either clear the president of suspicions or play a part in ending his presidency.

Cons

For people who understand the way interpretation works, the question is not so clear cut. In the bigger picture, there are considerations that go beyond the simple gathering of information.

Depth of Knowledge

The incredible depth of knowledge possessed by interpreters who pass the State Department’s test sets these interpreters apart as the best of the best. They know the vocabulary for every subject that will be discussed. They understand the cultures and the related nuances of the languages. They have impressive knowledge about government and diplomacy as well as the details of the current situation. Losing these phenomenal individuals would not serve the country’s interests.

A Harmful Precedent

Requiring Marina Gross to testify before Congress would have implications beyond the current political sphere. It would set a precedent that could change the way interpreters work for years to come.
Presidents and other high-ranking officials might begin to have meetings without any interpreters present, which could lead to critical misunderstandings. Future presidents would likely miss the extra help interpreters now provide. There would be no interpreter to question their inaccuracies or help them make their meaning clearer.
And, without the interpreter’s usual records of the meetings, historians and the general public might never have a clear understanding.

A Possible Refusal

Whatever position you take on the need for a subpoena, there are two very real possibilities to consider.
First, Marina Gross may simply refuse to testify. Her professional code of ethics tells her that interpreters must maintain confidentiality in all private meetings. Most reputable interpreters would likely prefer being charged with contempt to falling short of those ideals.
Second, Trump might claim executive privilege and block the subpoena. Given President Trump’s statements on presidential powers, that outcome is easy to imagine.

So, should Marina Gross be subpoenaed? The question is certainly more difficult to answer than it might seem. The outcome could have far-reaching consequence for the government and the American people. For interpreters, the wrong answer could be a devastating blow.

What do you think? Answer this one-question survey and we will share the results later.

The Role of Language Learning at Both Ends of Life

December 14th, 2018 by

When is the best time in life to learn a foreign language? People of all ages can benefit from learning a new language, of course. But recent studies have revealed two key life phases when language learning has a tremendous impact.

Childhood Learning Languages for Fluency

Language teachers have been saying for years that language learning is easy the younger you are. After testing people of all ages on their English grammar skills, researchers have more specific data to back up that assumption.

The scientists created an English grammar test, posted it on Facebook, and analyzed test results. Of nearly 670,000 people aged 10 to over 70 years old, 246,000 test-takers grew up speaking English. The rest were bilingual or multilingual.

Researchers concluded that those who learned a foreign language early in life could become proficient, even fluent. Up until the teen years, people were still able to learn foreign languages well. Around the age of 18, this natural ability seemed to fade somewhat. While people of all ages can learn language well enough to communicate, it’s rare for someone who learned after 18 to be able to pass as a native speaker.

Language Learning as a Dementia Treatment

Learning a new language may be harder as you get older, but it’s still absolutely worth doing. Consider the 2015 Glasgow program offering language workshops for elderly people. The workshops use a foreign language class as cognitive training to help older people stay mentally active.

Researchers studied how the workshops affected the people who participated. It wasn’t altogether surprising to researchers when the program showed that language learning can help the elderly stave off dementia.

As it turns out, programs like this may be able to delay the onset of dementia for four to five years. That’s longer than any dementia medication available today. The researchers’ ultimate goal is to explore exactly how this insight can be used to create the most effective kind of language learning therapy for the elderly.

Whether you’re young, old, or in between, you can learn a language you’ve never spoken before. You can learn to communicate well enough to manage in another country or community where people don’t speak your native language. If you’re young, you can become fluent more easily. Even if you’re quite old, you might very well put off age-related damage to your brain.

Since language learning isn’t easy at all ages, finding interpreters who know a foreign language well can be a difficult task. Once you find them, keeping them is essential. Contact us at Interpreter Intelligence to find out how you can schedule and manage your interpreters, keep them happy, and rely on them in the coming years.

New Doors Are Opening Around the World for the Deaf

November 28th, 2018 by

The language barriers that deaf people have always faced are beginning to come down. Around the world, businesses and organizations are beginning to open their doors to the hearing impaired like never before.

A Sign Language Café in Pakistan

There’s a café in Pakistan where you can order your food using sign language. The mother, father, and brothers of the family that own the café are hearing impaired. Deaf customers can come in, order by sign language, and be served a variety of tasty foods, including the café’s special-recipe double chocolate brownies.

An Uber App for Deaf Drivers

Uber has been working with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) to create a new app for deaf Uber drivers. The old app, with audible notifications, wasn’t helpful for drivers who couldn’t hear the beeps.

The new app uses flashing lights so that deaf drivers can see the messages and respond. As the driver makes their way to the rider, the rider gets a notification that their driver is deaf, and they’re prompted to enter their trip information before the driver reaches them. The app is only available for drivers in four U.S. cities, but Uber says it will be rolled out more widely soon.

A Starbucks Signing Store

Starbucks’ new Signing Store in Washington, D.C. is a coffee shop where the baristas communicate with their customers using ASL. The store not only benefits deaf customers, but it also brings employment opportunities for deaf people in the area.

Baristas at the location communicate with sign language. They also take orders using specially designed digital displays and ordering technology that uses two-way keyboards. What’s more, the Signing Store celebrates deaf culture with a mural created by deaf artist Yipiao Wang.

An Austrian Language Class for Deaf Refugees

When refugees arrived in Austria in 2015-2016, there were deaf people among them. An organization in the country saw an opportunity to help them thrive there. They began offering a unique language class for asylum seekers.

In this class, refugees who are hearing impaired learn sign language and written German, but it’s more than a language class. They also learn about the cultural norms in Austria so that they understand how they’re expected to behave at work and in the community. They learn practical skills, too, like how to fill out job forms.

These organizations and others are finally recognizing that deaf people need equal treatment and equal access. While it’s hard to say just how far and how fast this trend will go, it’s a step in the right direction. Regardless of what happens, interpreters will continue to play a role in serving the deaf community.

As a language services provider, you’re a part of the solution. Contact us at Interpreter Intelligence to learn how our platform makes interpreter scheduling easier and more reliable.

When Justice Stands Still: Here’s Why Court Interpreters Are So Important

November 9th, 2018 by

When judges, lawyers, and defendants can’t communicate with each other, the judiciary system quickly grinds to a dead halt. Unfortunately, it happens all too often. That’s because many courts lack the court interpreters that they need to keep the wheels of justice turning. In a country with both non-English speakers and limited English speakers, court interpreters play a critical role.

Ensuring Accurate Communication

Without effective communication, justice in the court system would be impossible. A non-English speaker can neither answer questions nor give important details if a court interpreter isn’t there to help. Even someone who knows some English usually has difficulty understanding and responding accurately.

A court interpreter can communicate the legal language of the court proceedings to the defendant. They can also interpret the responses of the defendant at the authentic level of simplicity or complexity expressed.

Giving Defendants a Voice

Non-English-speaking defendants may not be able to understand why they are being tried. They can’t communicate with their lawyer. They can’t explain to an only-English speaking judge why the charges against them aren’t valid.

They can’t give important details that might bring the judge to drop their case or reduce the charges. A court interpreter can give them the opportunity to tell their story and respond to questions about it. It’s an important aspect of giving defendants fair treatment.

Avoiding Court Delays

What happens when a defendant needs a court interpreter, and none is available? It’s simple. The court date is pushed back and rescheduled. One reason it happens is that the court can’t schedule a court interpreter until after they determine one is needed. That’s the first delay.

There may be other delays if an interpreter for the specific language needed is not available for each step of the process. Each delay costs both the court and the defendant precious time and money. The defendant may have problems getting back to court again. Every delay is frustrating for the defendant.

Avoiding Dropped Charges

If there are too many delays, the charges may eventually be dismissed. The court is required to provide a speedy trial. When the court can’t provide a court interpreter as needed, the delays can add up until they must drop the charges.

In Maui, an assistant professor named Kaeo needed a court interpreter to defend himself against charges related to a protest. He spoke Hawaiian, which is an official language of the state. Yet, no interpreters were available to help. The charges were dropped. No one will ever know whether Kaeo would have been convicted or not.

Scheduling interpreters is a large part of the solution. However, interpreter scheduling isn’t easy with so many different languages, so many court cases to cover, and so few interpreters to do the work. Fortunately, Interpreter Intelligence offers a platform that can help language services providers manage their interpreters to get the right ones where they’re needed. Find out how it works by contacting Interpreter Intelligence.

With efficient interpreter scheduling, the court runs smoothly and defendants get fair treatment. Everyone wins.