AB5 impacts Interpreters/Translators

Written by Esther

Dana Point

Business Owner, Independent Contractor, or Both?

Both, depending on the situation


March 6, 2020

Tell us about the type of work you do as an Independent Contractor and/or as a Business Owner. What is a regular day or week like doing the work you do?

I came to the US when I was ten years old. My parent came here as political refugees from Cuba. My father was a very proud man and a hard worker. He refused government assistance and worked at a factory to support his family of six. He eventually opened his own Mom & Pop market in the not-so-safe side of town of New Jersey; it was the best he could do. My father attended night school to take ESL classes to learn some English. My mother never learned the language because it was difficult for her. I grew up in a Spanish speaking household.

I moved to California when I was a young bride. I later had two kids that prompted me to quit my job to spend more times with my children. I learned about interpreting and I went back to school to polish my Spanish and English then learn to become an interpreter. I eventually got certified. I was able to make money, contribute to my household, and spend time with my children. I've never been unemployed. I've been working steadily since I was 18 years old.

I've been a certified interpreter for 27 years. I work in legal cases and in the business sector doing conferences or major events where simultaneous interpreting is required. Over the years I've been able to support myself and make over 6 figure income.

I contract with the courts, direct clients, agencies or language service companies, and with my own colleagues. I have a S-Corp. I have two websites to offer my services to anyone who needs a Spanish interpreter. I am certified by the state court and the federal court. The members of my community can reach me to translate documents, appear at asylum interviews or whatever other language needs they have. I'm also active with my professional associations and I mentor younger interpreters. I give presentations about my field and educate anyone that needs to know about what I do.

I have been impacted by AB5 as it requires me to be an employee of every single agency I contract with which varies from 10 up to 20 difference agencies. These companies can be located in California or out of state. I have received termination of contract notices from two companies saying that they will no longer contract with California interpreters due to AB5. I was scheduled to interpret at a 4-day conference at the beginning of the year for one of those companies. I lost a significant amount of money, not only that, but I will lose future offering from that company. They brought in out-of-state interpreters for that event.

I offer overflow work to my available colleagues; and work on projects. I may get a contract to transcribe and translate certain recordings that will be introduced in court as evidence. I contract with my colleagues who share my expertise to assist in this work. I need to review that work before submitting it then I can testify as to its accuracy. This is sporadic work but a highly specialized service that only a few can do. In turn, if another colleague need my assistance with their own projects they may contract with me in the same fashion. Under AB5 we are required to be employees of each other.

The B2B section of AB5 still prevents me from working with companies in the same line of business. I believe that I can best serve my community as a freelancer. I cannot be available at all times if I am hired as an employee. In fact, I refuse to be anyone's employee. If forced to be an employee by the state, my income will be drastically reduced. My hopes of retiring in a few years will not materialize. At my age, employment opportunities will be reduced and the likelihood that I'll earn what I earn now will be very slim.

I believe that the government has no right to tell me who I can enter into contract with. I believe that I am an independent contractor and I have met every test before 2020. It is an unfair burden placed on me as a business owner, too. My colleagues also have corporations, LLCs and run their own business.

The idea that in order for me to be recognized as a working adult is that I should be an employee of someone is ludicrous. California legislators are not taking into account today's market. The need for my autonomy is an integral part of who I am and what I have accomplished as a professional. I was taught to work hard for everything I have, and not rely on anyone else. I am a successful and proud Latina.

Has working as an Independent Contractor been a choice or a necessity for you? If so why?

It's been a choice. I can work for five straight days or three days per week. I get to choose when I don't want to work.

How have Independent Contractors been essential to your business model?

Because of the nature of our work. It's sporadic there's not need to have someone as an employee. I may use someone one day and not use them the remainder of the year. We contact interpreters based on their availability, so I couldn't ever hire the same interpreter as they may be tied up elsewhere.

In addition, I have to take into account the interpreter's expertise. Not every interpreter is a good fit for every case. One interpreter may be an expert on financial terms while another is an expert on personal injuries.

What do you enjoy most about being an Independent Contractor or Business Owner?

The rewards of seeing my own hard work paid off with happy clients. The flexibility of choosing when to work.

What has been the immediate impact of AB5 on your ability to do work and/or make an income?

The limitation placed by the government is very scary and threatening. I don't want to break the law either.

What are your long term concerns about AB5 or other similar legislation imposing more strict regulations on Independent Contract work?

If we're getting restrictions placed on us, what else will the government do?

If you could tell legislators directly one thing about Independent Contract work, what would it be?

We are an integral part of our community. You use our services all the time but don't realize that. When you award contracts to agencies, they use our services to fulfill that request. It's a win-win for all.

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