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On Wednesday, California’s lower legislative chamber passed AB5, 53-11, sending shock waves across the state for hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, including interpreters and translators.


See JNCL’s previous posts about the origin of AB5, Dynamex, and the language service industry’s background, first response and second response.


AB5 codifies the three part employee classification test, or ABC test, into state law. Among the test’s rules, it state that in order to be considered an independent contractor, a worker cannot do work that is central to the contracting company’s business. Now, an identical bill must be passed in the Senate and then be signed by the Governor’s office.

The author of the bill, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, has said that a law like AB5 would punish those business that have tried to bend the rules in the past on worker classification (see Dynamex). However, many experts say that businesses that are forced to “reclassify” workers would incur upwards of 30% increased expenses per worker.

AB5 includes exemptions for doctors, dentists, lawyers, architects, accountants, engineers, insurance agents, investment advisers, direct sellers, real estate agents, hairstylists and barbers who rent booths at salons, as well as marketers and human-resources professionals with advanced degrees, but does not include language service professionals.

Regarding the impact to language service professionals, The San Francisco Chronicle writes:

Language translators would be hit particularly hard, said Naomi Bowman, president of DS-Interpretation, a South San Francisco firm that provides interpreters for conferences and other events.

“Such workers are not mere ‘side-gig’ workers in a new economy but true, professional, highly-skilled independent contractors who operate independent businesses with dozens or hundreds of clients,” she said in an email. “They want to and should be allowed to remain independent contractors.”

Otherwise, she said, language interpreting will be outsourced to other states or countries.

Here is Ms. Bowman’s full quote: While the exemptions to AB5 are promising for some, the language industry will be particularly hard-hit as collateral damage without an exemption. Entire sectors of the long-established industry, such as conference interpreting and on-site interpreting, will be decimated. Such workers are not mere ‘side-gig’ workers in a new economy but true, professional, highly-skilled independent contractors who operate independent businesses with dozens or hundreds of clients. They want to and should be allowed to remain independent contractors, subject to the Borrello Standards. AB5, as is, will push actual interpreting work outside of CA: using remote interpreting technology, the work will end up being done by workers outside of CA. That will hurt, not help CA workers.