CA court decision is expected to affect linguists working as contractors nationwide

One year ago, the Dynamex case stirred up discussions in California and across the US about independent contractors. At the moment, the ALC is opposed to the decision and the ATA has chosen not to take sides.

In its decision, the California Supreme court established a 3-part “ABC test”, that would determine if a person is a true independent contractor or an employee:

A) a worker must be free from employer control,

B) works outside the business’s regular scope, and

C) is independently established in that trade.

Considering the ABC test, this would mean that a language service company (LSC) could hire a freelance web-designer or accountant, but would not be able to hire translators, writers, or interpreters as freelancers; they would have to become employees.

There are several views being discussed by different groups. Some workers are in favor of the ABC test as they want to receive labor protections and the other expected benefits of being an employee. Many businesses are against the changes as they envision higher costs and decreased competitiveness. State agencies and taxing authorities expect this move to increase the taxes collected, since they assume that both businesses and workers use independent contracting arrangements to avoid the payment of taxes.

Professional linguists are divided on the issue. Many experienced linguists cherish their independence and bristle at the thought of being forced into an employee relationship. Some though, feel pressure working as a contractor and think that it could be a positive change.

The California legislature is now weighing in on the matter. In late May, the California Assembly passed “AB5”, with the intent of codifying the court decision. Physicians, lawyers and a small number of other professionals are excluded, while professional linguists are not being considered for exemption at this time. The legislation is now moving to the California Senate.

If the “gig work” legislation is passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, California’s employment landscape will undergo seismic changes on both the individual and the corporate sides.