|Update: California Senate Labor Committee Shelves SB 900
California’s Senate Bill 900, an amendment which would have exempted specified translators and interpreters from the ABC test under the state’s Assembly Bill 5, was shelved by the Senate Labor Committee on May 14.
The Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California (CoPTIC) stated that the withdrawal of the bill “… reinforces how little lawmakers know about and appreciate the work of translators and interpreters, even as they use the profession to do their work (interpreting at COVID-19 briefings and events) and keep their jobs (translation of ballots and voting info).” Click here to read CoPTIC’s comments on Twitter.
California Senate Bill SB 9001 creates an exemption for the relationship between a “service provider that provides . . . certified interpretation or translation services” and a “referral agency” in the application of the ABC test under AB 5. In its place, SB 900 mandates the application of the multifactor Borello test.2
While SB 900 is an improvement on the status quo under AB 5, there are several issues of varying degrees of importance from ATA’s perspective that should be addressed and resolved before ATA can fully support the bill.
Positive Aspects of SB 900
- Exempts many translators and interpreters (T&I) from application of the ABC test, thus allowing their classification as independent contractors.
- Expressly includes sole proprietors as a permissible business entity for a service provider.
- Expressly recognizes ATA as one of several professional associations for purposes of SB 900.
Areas in SB 900 that Need Revision, Improvement, or Clarification
- Exemption under referral agency rather than professional services
Translation and interpretation services would be included in Section 2781 of the California Labor Code, which addresses relationships between service providers and “referral agencies,” including companies connecting service providers for minor home repair, home cleaning, errands, pet sitting, picture hanging, etc.
As highly-educated and experienced professionals, translators and interpreters should be included under Section 2777, which deals with “professional services.”
This characterization of the role of language services companies and agencies (LSCs) as mere “referral agencies” flies in the face of reality. Additional services, such as project management, editing, and proofreading, are essential components to the quality provision of T&I services. The overwhelming majority of LSCs provide other value-added services to the end client, such as desktop publishing and localization in addition to any “matching of” translators and interpreters with end clients.
- Delivery in one’s own name
Section 2781 (a) (4) will be extremely problematic from the LSC perspective in that it requires the service provider (translator or interpreter) to deliver services to the (end) client under their own name, and not under the name of the LSC. This, too, flies in the face of reality as many LSCs shield the names of translators and interpreters to prevent losing hard-earned business. While some may argue this may be desirable, it should not be a prerequisite for classification as an independent contractor.
- Meaning error?
Section 2781 (b) (3), which specifies the type of service providers for which the referral agency acts as a broker, uses the phrase “certified interpretation or translation services.” It is currently unknown if “non-certified” T&I services, which comprise the vast majority of T&I services, would also be covered by SB 900. This appears to be a drafting error: the services provided in our field are not certified, but rather the actual people providing the services are sometimes certified.
The use of the term “certified,” be it in reference to the service or the service provider, entails a number of problems that have long been issues in the T&I profession.
Section 2775 (b) (7) states “Certified interpretation or translation services means a person who…” and then lists several organizations of which the service provider must be a member in good standing, or which has provided the service provider with a certification or credential.
Aside from the issue about people, and not “services,” being certified, as previously mentioned, the list omits existing professional T&I credentials that should legitimately be included. Using the word “certified” also may create unintended consequences for practitioners of our profession.
Summary and Call to Action
While still a work in progress, SB 900 is an acceptable starting point for obtaining the desired exemption for translators and interpreters from the ABC test under AB 5.
California translators and interpreters should contact their state legislators3 and demand that the problems outlined above be fixed. ATA also encourages all translators and interpreters to continue to support the Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California4 in its efforts to improve the language of this bill.
ATA Position Statements and Updates on AB 5
ATA Position on California Assembly Bill 5
ATA Statement on AB 5 and Mandatory Employee Classification
Take Action: Download ATA Template on Mandatory Employee Classification Legislation
Take Action: What Can I Do about Mandatory Employee Classification Legislation in My State?
ATA Statement on California SB 875 (Exemption to AB 5 for Translators and Interpreters)
ATA Podcast Episode 42: California Assembly Bill 5: What Now? with Ted Wozniak, Lorena Ortiz Schneider, and Marion Rhodes
Wozniak, Ted. “AB 5: It’s Not Just in California,” The ATA Chronicle (January/February 2020), 2,
Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California
Joint National Committee for Languages
- California Senate Bill SB 900, https://bit.ly/SB900-California.
- To find out more about the ABC test and Borello test, see “Independent Contractor versus Employee” on the State of California Department of Industrial Relations website, https://bit.ly/FAQ-independent-contractor.
- Find Your California Representative, http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.
- Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California, http://coalitionptic.org.