This is a special Action Alert from the ATA Advocacy Committee!
Potential Misclassification of Workers Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA)
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has found that the misclassification of employees as independent contractors is a serious issue in many industries, denying these workers basic protections like minimum wage, overtime pay, and access to important benefits. However, in the vast majority of cases, this is not true for translators and interpreters.
The DOL published the Independent Contractor Status Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) on January 7, 2021, which went into effect after several court challenges.
The DOL is now planning to create new rules for determining employee and independent contractor status under FSLA.
Language service companies (LSCs) and, more broadly, companies of all kinds, rely on the skilled labor of translators and interpreters working as independent contractors. This structure dates back to the 1940s. Currently, more than 75% of language professionals work as independent contractors. We provide knowledge-based, professional services that require a high degree of professionalism, ongoing professional education, and professional compensation. Forcing those of us who wish to be independent contractors to be employees would disrupt vital language access services, which are protected under federal law.
Why This Matters for Translators and Interpreters
Any proposed changes to these rules could have a serious impact on the language industry and our work as independent professionals. For this reason, we must make our voices heard so that any new rules account for the realities of our profession.
The DOL is asking for input from independent contractors to develop its proposal and is holding public forums to hear from those who may be affected by changes to employee or independent contractor classification.
The arbitrary imposition of employee status on T&I professionals at the federal level would make it impossible for tens of thousands of us to work as we now do in the U.S. We are a vital part of a $56 billion industry that is integral to overcoming language barriers in such areas as the courts, medicine and public health, entertainment, sports, arts, education, business, technology, conferences, and voting.
What Can You Do?
- Sign up to attend the DOL hearing on June 29, 2022, 5:00-7:00 p.m. ET via Zoom. If you can’t attend, sign up anyway and be counted.
- When you register, write “Independent Translation Professional” or “Independent Interpreting Professional” in the “Job Title” box, then write your company name or “Independent Contractor” in the “Company” box.
- Attendees who want to share their stories will be given a chance to address the forum. Prepare a narrative up to 2 minutes long about how misclassification as an employee will affect your business and your ability to facilitate language access in the U.S.
- Tell the forum what you do, why you like being an independent contractor, and why being an employee just wouldn’t work for you, either because of your language combination, geographical location, specialization, etc. Offer the solution that the proper enforcement of existing regulations is a viable alternative to creating even more complicated rules. Be sure to say thank you at the end.
- Prepare written comments you can submit during the comment period. The ATA Advocacy Committee will monitor when this period begins and tell you when and where to send them.
- Jessica Looman is the acting administrator for the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division. Follow the division on Twitter at @WHD_DOL.
We Need All Hands on Deck!
If you need any help, contact the ATA Advocacy Committee or any of its members for tips on telling your story and written samples you can use for inspiration.
Ben Karl, Committee Chair: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicolás Arízaga, Committee Member: email@example.com
Dr. Bill Rivers, Committee Member: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lorena Ortiz Schneider, Committee Member: email@example.com