Comment from Janis Palma

I thank you for the opportunity to comment on Regulatory Information Number (RIN) 1235-AA34, regarding independent contractors. As an independent contractor judiciary interpreter for over 40 years, federally-certified and Texas state-certified, having also served as a board member of various national and state professional associations over the course of the past 30 years, I fully support the Department of Labor’s initiative to clarify the factors that distinguish an independent contractor from an employee. Judiciary interpreters in California suffered needlessly from a piece of legislation that misclassified them all as “gig workers” and were forced to spend countless hours and funds to rectify that mistake until lawmakers finally approved an exemption to AB5 applicable to language services professionals.

As independent contractors, judiciary interpreters work mostly in state and federal courts, and sometimes for other government agencies or private attorneys. While their work schedules are subject to the client’s schedules, particularly the courts’, they are free to choose which clients to work for and which jobs to turn down. Also, state and federal courts generally set the rate at which they will pay judiciary interpreters who work as independent contractors, however these same interpreters are free to set their own rates when working for the private sector. They are also free to initiate or terminate a contractual relationship with any client at any time.

Judiciary interpreting requires a very high level of specialized knowledge and skills involving legal and other technical terminology, simultaneous and consecutive interpreting, among others. As a general rule, such knowledge and skills are acquired by the practitioners prior to becoming independent contractors, at their own expense. And while each interpreter must abide by a code of ethics and performance standards applicable to the profession as a whole, their individual performance is as unique as that of a surgeon in an operating room.

Our profession as a whole welcomes this U.S. Department of Labor’s revision of the interpretation given to independent contractor status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in the hopes that it will prevent future misclassifications of professionals such as translators and interpreters working on their own by choice, not wanting to be anyone’s employees.

Comment ID: WHD-2020-0007-1786 | 26-Oct-20

Categorized under Independence

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