Independent Contractor or Employee?

Language Line ServicesLanguage Line Services of Monterey, California, provides interpretation and translation services in 170 languages to emergency services operators, online retailers, banks and other businesses across the country.  One corporate decision the $300 million company made, however, involves the difference between two common English business terms – “employee” and “independent contractor.”

More than 97 percent of the company’s nearly 5,000 interpreters – people who’ve mastered languages from Afrikaans to Yiddish – are employees eligible for health care and other benefits. The company also pays its share of federal and state employment taxes and withholds taxes from employee paychecks.

Less than 3 percent of Language Line’s interpreters are independent contractors who get called in for special project work on rare languages such as Woloff, Visayan or Fukienese.

Not all translation companies follow suit.

In fact, Language Line attorney Steven Marc Weinberg says many of the company’s competitors classify all of their interpreters as independent contractors. As contractors, interpreters handle their own taxes and aren’t eligible for employee benefits. Weinberg argues that translation companies using such a set up are able to unfairly undercut prices charged by firms like Language Line. “Some businesses that classify workers as independent contractors end up increasing their bottom line unfairly,” says Weinberg. “It’s tough enough in this economy without so many folks being denied the support they’re rightly owed.”

Read the rest of this American Express “Inside Edge” story by Elizabeth Wasserman here >>

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