How California’s AB5 Bill Impacts Interpreters

California AB5

Independent contractors make up a vital part of the language services industry. An interpreter or translator typically works with numerous organizations and is more akin to a small business owner than an employee. However, the California AB5 bill, which is designed to protect employees from being misclassified, threatens to prevent interpreters from doing their job in the state.


Here’s a look at AB5 and the impact it could have on interpreters and companies, if the bill isn’t modified.


California AB5: A Short Recap


The bill was introduced in response to the court decision on a lawsuit filed by Dynamex employees. (Former workers claimed they were classified as independent contractors, but were treated like employees.) In order to prevent employers from misclassifying employees, AB5 requires companies to use the ABC test when hiring a contractor in California. The worker must:


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


Exemptions include doctors, lawyers, insurance agents, and hairdressers among others. But interpreters and translators were left out.


The bill went into law on January 1, 2020, and includes a grace period for companies to comply until 2021.


California AB1850 and Interpreters


After receiving pushback from several groups (including the language industry), the California Senate introduced AB1850 on January 6, 2020 to address the problems with AB5. The new bill includes an exemption for translators, but not interpreters.


On June 11, 2020, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzales acknowledged on the assembly floor that the bill still needed work. But the California Senate has yet to announce any changes for interpreters. This poses a major problem for people who need an American Sign Language (ASL) or foreign language interpreter.


Why Interpreters Matter


Access to an interpreter isn’t a nice to have—it’s a legal right. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing must have access to communication in press conferences, courtrooms, and schools under the American With Disabilities Act of 1990. People with limited English proficiency are also entitled to an interpreter in these settings.


If organizations are barred from hiring contract interpreters, people may not have access to one when they need assistance. This could prevent millions of California residents from fully participating in their communities.


What Can Companies Do?


Ideally, the California Senate will add interpreters to the list of exemptions before the grace period ends. However, if you work for a company that hires contract interpreters, remote interpreting may offer a short-term solution in some instances. Since the bill only applies to workers in California, many organizations have started seeking contractors who work remotely in other states.


Think remote interpreting may be right for you? Contact Boostlingo to start your free trial with our unified interpretation management platform.