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Interpreting the Future of Freelance Interpreters

Freelance interpreters do majority of translation or interpreting work. This may surprise you to learn about this, but if you are not in the translation field you might not know about it. The backbone of the translation industry are freelancers. If they were not there nothing would get done. Freelancers are imperative in the translation industry. This does not mean though that there are not challenges involved.

The difficulties with being a Freelancer

The fact that they are independent workers is both an advantage and a disadvantage. What allows them to be exploited is there work. It is also the very thing that grants them freedom. The customer refuses to pay after the freelancer has there work done. There are constant streams of stories about this. The freelancer does not sign a contract so there is no protecting them from situations like this. A contract can be included but it still may backfire on the freelancer. If the contract has secret conditions or it is not read properly it can make it very hard for the freelancer. However, there was a ruling in New York City recently that might change things for the better.

The DCA Ruling

On May 1, 2017, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) put into effect rules which claim to “clarify” the Freelance Isn’t Free Act. Those rules impose more extensive restrictions on businesses which contract with freelancers. It may extend liability under the Act to businesses using third-party staffing agencies. The Act requires businesses to enter into written agreements with freelance interpreters operating in New York City if the services to be provided have a value of $800 or more. If over a 120-day period total of $800 or more with the same freelancer with multiple contracts the DCA ruling is also required.

The Act also forbids businesses from retaliating against freelancers for “exercising or attempting to exercise any right guaranteed under this chapter.” The Rules came into effect on July 21, 2017, and businesses should ensure that any agreements entered into with freelance interpreters on and after this date meet the newly-announced requirements.

The Ruling Explained

Now for those of us who do not have a Law degree this ruling can be simplified as such. This ruling gives more rights to freelancers by stopping business from including certain conditions in their contracts. Businesses can no longer solve disputes using Arbitrators. The court will have to sort out these disputes. Non-public aspects of the relationship cannot have confidentiality provisions allowed on them. Immigration status does not affect this act. This is the final and perhaps the most important act.

Some practical advice

If your business has contracts with New York City-based freelancers then it is time to review those contracts. Agreements with freelancers should no longer include class action waivers, agreements to arbitrate, or confidentiality provisions that would bar the freelancer from disclosing the terms of the agreement to the Director.

What this could mean

This ruling is actually a big deal and could help make more changes for freelancers down the line. It proves that the complaints of freelancers are being heard. This ruling gives freelancers in the New York area a new layer of protection that they didn’t have before. Hopefully to protect freelance interpreters this ruling will start a trend and more laws will be out into place.

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