Last update: Oct 7, 2020: AB 2257 has been signed into law by Governor Newsom. CoPTIC has a very helpful webinar and summary on their website. (The latest developments in terms of new bills amending AB5 are listed at the very bottom. Click here to go straight to the latest status.)
What is AB5?
California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 18, 2019. The bill codifies the so-called Dynamex decision on the distinction between independent contractors and employees. The bill does not contain any explicit exemption for translators and interpreters. The full text of the bill can be found here: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB5.
Of particular interest is section 2, 2750.3. (a) (1) [boldface added for emphasis here]: “For purposes of the provisions of this code and the Unemployment Insurance Code, and for the wage orders of the Industrial Welfare Commission, a person providing labor or services for remuneration shall be considered an employee rather than an independent contractor unless the hiring entity demonstrates that all of the following conditions are satisfied:
(A) The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.
(B) The person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.
(C) The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.”
The bill then lists a host of professions that are explicitly exempt from this “ABC-test.” Translators and interpreters are not mentioned at all anywhere in the bill. Subdivision (e), however, lists a generic exemption under certain conditions [boldface again added for emphasis below]:
“(e) Subdivision (a) and the holding in Dynamex do not apply to a bona fide business-to-business contracting relationship, as defined below, under the following conditions:
(1) If a business entity formed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, limited liability partnership, or corporation (“business service provider”) contracts to provide services to another such business (“contracting business”), the determination of employee or independent contractor status of the business services provider shall be governed by Borello, if the contracting business demonstrates that all of the following criteria are satisfied: …” This is followed by a list of criteria (A)-(L).
What does this mean for translators and interpreters and their collaboration with language agencies?
It is impossible to give a general answer to this question, since it obviously depends on the individual situation. When in doubt, please consult a lawyer.
However, some individual translators and interpreters in California have received notifications from language services companies (LSCs), both in and outside of California, informing them either that in light of AB5 the LSC will no longer engage any translators or interpreters in California, or that the LSC will only use California translators and interpreters who incorporate.
As a language professional you can advocate for redress of our interests through an explicit exemption. The Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California (CoPTIC) is dedicated to inform, educate and encourage a constituency-based advocacy. Please visit coalitionptic.org to learn more. Their FAQ page should answer a lot of questions.
The American Translators Association, ATA, NCTA’s parent organization, has issued a position statement on the situation in California. ATA has also published a list with action items, resources and next steps for everybody who has been negatively affected by mandatory employee classification legislation. You can read the action plan here.
NCTA’s General Meeting on February 8, 2020, featured a discussion on AB5 with Lorena Ortiz Schneider, founder of CoPTIC, and Shamus Sayed, vice president of Interpreters Unlimited, Inc., and board member of the Association of Language Companies. The summary writeup explains the status quo and contains a list of action items and next steps for affected language professionals.
ATISDA, NCTA’s sister organization in San Diego, has also written an informative blog post on AB5.
Finally, the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency has an extensive FAQ on its website and also resources for employers and (potentially misclassified) employees.
Other California Bills Attempting to Amend AB5 for Language Professionals – latest update of this page
There is a proposed California Senate Bill 875 with an exemption to AB5 for specific translators and interpreters. The current bill text can be found here. ATA issued a statement on SB875, which is available here. There is another proposed California Senate Bill 1039, The Independent Workers Bill, that addresses the rights of people who choose to work independent from the usual employee status. You can read the text and check the status of these and other bills at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov. According to the CA legilature’s online information, SB 875 seems currently on hold.
Another bill that was introduced to amend AB5 is California Senate Bill 900. The full text of the bill and its current status can be found here. The bill has been shelved on May 14, 2020, as can be seen from the bill history on the government website.
Current status: AB 2257 and its consequences for translators, interpreters and language agencies
California Assembly Bill 1850 was introduced by the author of AB5 herself. AB 1850 was shelved in favor of AB 2257. AB 2257 includes exemptions for translators and interpreters, under certain conditions. On Sept 4th, 2020, Governor Newsom signed AB2257 into law. The final bill text as it is signed into law can be found here.
If you are wondering what this all means in the end, as of October 2020, CoPTIC has a very helpful page with an explanation and a webinar, plus individual slides on the consequences of AB 2257 for translators, interpreters, and language agencies working with interpreters.