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.

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