Problematical job offer
Thread poster: Armorel Young

Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:21
Member (2004)
German to English
May 19, 2006

Through Agency X I have done quite a bit of work for Publishing Company Y, including some quite substantial and interesting book translations which I have enjoyed. Although I have never met Person A in Agency X, we have developed a good working relationship on a pleasant friendly basis - she is a good client with whom I get on very well.

Out of the blue Publishing Company Y has e-mailed me direct, saying that they have found my Proz profile and I sound just the right sort of person to translate their books (!) - they are inviting me to contact them to talk about working with them. What they clearly don't realise is that I have already been translating their books through Agency Y.

I have no idea how to repond to this. The publishers don't know that I have worked for them through the agency, so they haven't broken any rules in approaching them. I haven't taken any steps to approach them, so I haven't broken any rules either - and I have no contract with the agency that might cover this situation. But I would simply feel uncomfortable about pursuing discussions with the publishing company - it feels like going behind the back of the agency. What would I do, for example, if Agency X comment in a few months time that they are surprised not to have had any work from publishers Y recently? Do I simply tell the agency that I've been approached by Y? ... or what?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:21
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Look at the ToB (AGB) May 19, 2006

Armorel Young wrote:
I have no idea how to repond to this. The publishers don't know that I have worked for them through the agency, so they haven't broken any rules in approaching them. I haven't taken any steps to approach them, so I haven't broken any rules either - and I have no contract with the agency that might cover this situation.

You say you have no contract with the agency that covers this, but does the agency have ToB (Terms of Business, AGB Allgemeine Geschäftsbedingungen) that always apply but are not explicitly written as part of the contract? If so, you presumably can't do it; if not, the agency is a bit negligent as I think most of them don't allow this, at least while you are still in a business relationship with them. In the latter case I think it's a matter for your conscience.
Further thought: are you a member of a professional body that has a code of conduct? If so, it might be considered there to be unethical.
Oliver


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Amy Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:21
Italian to English
+ ...
Agency - Publisher contract? May 19, 2006

Hi Armorel,
A difficult situation if ever there was one!

Personally, I would let the publisher know that I had worked for them through agency X on a number of previous occasions and take it from there. There may be nothing in your contract with the agency but there may be a "use of personnel" clause or similar in the publisher's contract with the agency that includes penalties (sourcing fees) for "pinching" translators. While this isn't necessarily your responsibility (and of course there's no telling whether such a clause exists) you could be landing the publisher in a bit of a mess if you were to take the work without coming clean, and this would a) destroy your chances of getting any more work from them, directly or indirectly, and b) lose you your agency and your friendly colleague.

Good luck with your decision,
Amy

[Edited at 2006-05-19 13:31]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Gianni Pastore  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 15:21
Member (2007)
English to Italian
Take a look May 19, 2006

at the "Unethical vs Ethical" thread few days ago.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Richard Creech  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:21
French to English
+ ...
A Legal Question May 19, 2006

You need to find out what the unfair competition law of your national legal system has to say about the matter. Speaking as an American attorney, I can tell you that in the United States, absent a contract to the contrary, you would be completely free to accept work from the publisher directly without informing the agency. Even when contracts do address this issue (so-called "restrictive covenants") there are limits on how restrictive they can be. Generally courts will uphold no more than a two-year exclusionary period. There is a public policy that encourages free and open competition and the law is reluctant to allow companies to restrict it by limiting the ability of potential players.

Of course, business considerations may suggest a different course. You need to balance the expected gain from direct work with the publisher against the likely harm to your relationship with the agency if they ever found out. And of course, you shouldn't do anything you feel uncomfortable with. But don't be too quick to give the agency anything for "free." Did they adjust your fees to reflect any exclusive arrangement? Do they have a reciprocal duty to use you exclusively? Things to think about.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Carlos Montilla
Local time: 15:21
English to Spanish
+ ...
Difficult situation May 19, 2006

As I see it, company Y is trying to save money by contracting a translator themselves. Either this or they are not happy with the quality they been provided with, but I don't think this is the case as you say you've been translating their books for quite a long time now.

So, if you tell company X that company Y has contacted you and you tell company Y that you've been working for them through company X:

- company X will see that you are a professional and ethical translator. However, as company Y is trying to save money, I don't think they are going to use company X anymore. If you don't work for company Y directly, they will look for someone else.

- company Y will try to use you as their translator, most definetely avoiding company X.

- you would have acted ethically and hopefully will be able to keep translating the books (maybe with a pay increase if you work directly for company Y).

In my opinion, the only way to keep translating those books is to work directly for company Y. If you don't do it, someone else will. Company X need to understand that if they don't lower their rates (something you wouldn't like either), they are going to lose the client. Maybe you can offer them a 10% of everything you invoice to company Y so they are not that unhappy. With your pay increase, you can afford that and you will make happy both company X and Y.

I hope everything turns out well.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 20:21
English to Indonesian
+ ...
In fact it not problematic at all May 19, 2006

for the following reasons:
1. You have no contract terms with the agency on this thing. However, this is obviously less ethical.
2. As far as I know, any contract only prohibits freelancer to solicit the end client, not vice versa.
May this comment useful to you.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:21
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
With Amy, and... May 19, 2006

I do think you should say something to the publisher.
To be honest, however, what struck me about your post is that your name wasn't in the book in the first place. My name is always cited in any book, either just as "Catherine Bolton" or "Catherine Bolton for XXX" so the agency gets its name in there.
Had they been willing to do that, you wouldn't have been in this mess in the first place!
So at this point, I'd use this to my advantage and tell the agency you were contacted out of the blue and that, yes, you're willing to work for the publisher through them, but that your name has to be put in the books from now on.
Honestly, with what publishers tend to pay, at least you should get a little glory!
Catherine



[Edited at 2006-05-19 18:07]

[Edited at 2006-05-19 18:08]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Heather Chinchilla
United States
Local time: 09:21
Spanish to English
+ ...
My opinion May 19, 2006

I don't know if there's an answer that's "written in stone", but it seems that there are 2 issues to consider: what is legal and what is moral.

Legally I guess it would depend on the laws in your country, the publishing company's country, and the country of the end client (not sure which would have the final say if they differ). Also, if you signed a contract with the translation agency, or if they have a published policy, I would look at that as well. If you're a member of any translation organizations, I would check out their "rules of conduct" as well.

The other consideration would be moral. Do you have a good relationship with the translation agency? Do they pay when they're supposed to, treat you with respect, give you work on a regular or semi-regular basis? Is this relationship something you'd like to perserve?

If so, I would suggest giving it some thought first, then contacting your contact person at the translation agency and presenting the problem along with a possible solution. The end client and the agency may have had a falling out. If it's due to non-payment, etc., it may serve as a warning before you start working with the end client directly.

If there is no longer a relationship with the agency and the end client (and no concern about non-payment), perhaps you could take the job and give the agency a percentage this time with the understanding that next time you will take the job for yourself. If they're obviously not working with that agency anymore, you get to keep the future work and also preserve your relationship with both, as well as your reputation as an ethical business person, something that expected in this industry.

If the agency points out that there is a no-competition clause, I would suggest telling the end client that you'd be happy to do the work through the agency. If they request a certain translator, it would be in the agencie's best interest to comply.

I do agree with Catherine that you or you and the agency should get credit for the translations! Good luck, and if you don't mind, please let us know the end result incase any of us find ourselves in a similar situation!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:21
Dutch to English
+ ...
Similar situation May 20, 2006

I was in a similar situation a couple of years back. I wrote to the agency asking if they objected to me accepting the job from the direct customer (I had not solicited their business, they approached me) after explaining the situation. The agency said that since I had not approached the direct customer, I was free to accept the job. I still work for both, the agency and the direct customer. The job did not involve a book though (technical documentation).

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:21
Member (2004)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks to everyone May 23, 2006

Many thanks for so many helpful comments - your thoughts were hugely useful in helping me decide what to do. I ended up telling the publishers that I'd need the agency's consent to talk to them; I also told the agency I'd been contacted and they said they had no objection to me talking to the publishers direct. So at least all the communication channels are now open and everyone knows what is going on.

Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Problematical job offer

Advanced search







Wordfast Pro
Translation Memory Software for Any Platform

Exclusive discount for ProZ.com users! Save over 13% when purchasing Wordfast Pro through ProZ.com. Wordfast is the world's #1 provider of platform-independent Translation Memory software. Consistently ranked the most user-friendly and highest value

More info »
BaccS – Business Accounting Software
Modern desktop project management for freelance translators

BaccS makes it easy for translators to manage their projects, schedule tasks, create invoices, and view highly customizable reports. User-friendly, ProZ.com integration, community-driven development – a few reasons BaccS is trusted by translators!

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search