California AB5: Resources for Interpreters and How You Can Help

A hand finishing writing and underlining the word amendment in blue pen

As a follow-up to our previous blog post regarding the California bill AB5 and the potential threat it poses to language professionals working as independent contractors in the state of California, we wanted to post an update and include some resources for individuals looking to take action and get involved.

California AB5 refresh

AB5 was introduced in response to the Dynamex decision. (A quick recap: Former workers at Dynamex sued the company claiming they were treated as employees but were classified as independent contractors. The employees won, and AB5 was set into motion. The law will greatly alter how employers in California classify their workers.)

AB5 was meant to protect “gig economy” workers from being exploited, but concern quickly grew to backlash from people who are professional independent contractors by choice. This is because the bill forces businesses to use an “ABC” test when hiring workers to determine whether an individual should be classified as an employee or as an independent contractor. The worker must meet all three criteria to keep independent contractor status:

  1. The worker must be free from the hiring entity’s control;
  2. The worker must perform work that is “outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business”; and
  3. The worker must be in an “independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.”

Criterion B is the one that stings.

Unfortunately, many industries, like language services, will be adversely affected by AB5. The bill will force businesses that use contract interpreters and translators to classify them as employees, which simply doesn’t work for the majority of language companies or freelancers.

Is there an update to AB5?

Many language service professionals lobbied for the bill to include an exemption for interpreters and translators, akin to the exemptions made for physicians, dentists, architects, and attorneys.

Despite significant effort from the language industry, on September 10, 2019, the California State Senate voted to pass AB5, without an exemption for many workers whose profession is built around independent contractor status, including interpreters and translators.

On September 18, 2019, AB5 was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. The law is expected to go into effect on January 1, 2020.

If I’m an independent contract interpreter, what can I do?

Since the bill passed, professional interpreters and translators have banded together to lobby for an amendment to the bill allowing an exemption, hoping to get it passed in early 2020. Here is what is happening now:

  • California State Senator Andreas Borgeas has said that he will be introducing an amendment to AB5 that will protect the language services industry.
  • CoPTIC, or the Coalition of Practicing Translators & Interpreters of California, has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for strategic policy advocacy in support of independence for language professionals.
  • You can contact Governor Gavin Newsom through his website to express support of an amendment to AB5 to include an exemption for interpreters and translators.

We are in staunch support of an amendment to AB5 that will allow freelance language professionals to continue to operate their business as they see fit.

CLI is following this issue closely, and will continue to update our audience as information becomes available.

Leave a Reply