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When to sue a subcontract interpreter?
Thread poster: Arianna Aguilar
Arianna Aguilar
Local time: 09:22
English to Spanish
+ ...
Feb 21, 2009

My company contract states that for non-performance of assignment that the interpreter shall not be paid, and that we can also recoup the moneys that we lost.

I had an interpreter this morning whose conduct I would say was patently unacceptable; after confirming the appointment with both us and the client she did not arrive to the appointment.

We have lost approximately $300 in billing. I have half a mind to go ahead and sue the individual because in the five years I've had my agency, I've never seen someone so nonchalant.

I'm torn. I want to sue to recoup the actual monies lost, but I'm not sure if that's going over the top. Any feedback?


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Oleg Osipov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 17:22
English to Russian
+ ...
J... Feb 21, 2009

Just do it.

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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 12:22
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Just curious... Feb 21, 2009

Do you know why she didn't show up?

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Arianna Aguilar
Local time: 09:22
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Supposedly Feb 21, 2009

She just called a few minutes ago, I guess after she realized she was in big trouble. She said she was confused as to the time, which is impossible since we had numerous written and verbal confirmations.

I should have not used her after she failed to send in an invoice on time two days ago, but since she was a new interpreter, I cut her some slack.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 14:22
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
What's your time worth? Feb 21, 2009

It's a small claim, so you can probably pursue it without much complication. But in the end, it might be cheaper and more satisfying simply to contract a hit.

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Arianna Aguilar
Local time: 09:22
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Satisfying? lol Feb 21, 2009

I have to admit, Kevin, you have hit the nail on the head. I guess my question is, why would I spend the $100.00 to file a case in small claims court? Just to make a point, I suppose. I guess I'm just tired of "professional" interpreters trying to get away with this sort of thing. It happens more than you could possibly imagine.

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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
Emergency? Feb 21, 2009

It's entirely possible there was an emergency and she couldn't go to the assignment. If that is the case, the situation could have been so urgent that she couldn't call you.

I reccomend that you first contact the interpreter and have her explain her side of the situation. She might have a reasonable explanation.


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Arianna Aguilar
Local time: 09:22
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Emergencies Feb 21, 2009

Emergencies happen to the best of us, and of course, I would never pursue something in a case like that. But lying isn't an emergency...

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John Farebrother  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
French to English
+ ...
cough up Feb 22, 2009

Send her a bill for the $300. That requires a minimum effort from you, and will put the wind up her. You will still have time to decide what to do later. She might even pay.

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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:22
English to German
+ ...
I agree with John Feb 22, 2009

Other than that:

Arianna Aguilar wrote:

She said she was confused as to the time, which is impossible since we had numerous written and verbal confirmations.


This is indeed unprofessional.

I should have not used her after she failed to send in an invoice on time two days ago, but since she was a new interpreter, I cut her some slack.


Ahem. What does this have to do with anything? "Fail to write an invoice"? I yet have to write invoices in 4-digit amounts to my favorite client because I loathe bookkeeping and I only write the hefty and interesting ones right away. Is she your secretary? I pay my people without invoice, however, I insist that I get this piece of paper before I do my taxes.


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Magdalena Macinska  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:22
English to Polish
+ ...
Did you contact her when she didn't show up? Feb 22, 2009

I agree that the interpreter has behaved absolutely unprofessionally, I'm just curious if you tried to contact the interpreter at the moment of the assignment ( as I understand you represent the agency and I am not sure if you were present at the venue, but I assume that the client contacted you when the problem occurred?...)

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Kati Bumbera  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:22
Hungarian to English
+ ...
you should have a standard procedure in place for such cases Feb 22, 2009

Every agency I work for (or indeed every job I've ever had, interpreting or other) has a disciplinary procedure for these cases. I don't actually know what steps they take as I was never subjected to it, but if you've had your agency for five years and you say it's a common occurrence maybe you should implement one.

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 15:22
English to Croatian
+ ...
Good point Kati Feb 22, 2009

Kati Bumbera wrote:

Every agency I work for (or indeed every job I've ever had, interpreting or other) has a disciplinary procedure for these cases. I don't actually know what steps they take as I was never subjected to it, but if you've had your agency for five years and you say it's a common occurrence maybe you should implement one.


I couldn't agree more. When I was an in-house interpreter, there were always at least two interpreters for serious& important conferences, in case something happens to one of them.


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Kati Bumbera  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:22
Hungarian to English
+ ...
I didn't mean just the replacement but... Feb 22, 2009

...also what action is to be taken agains the person who doesn't show up.

Generally I have to give at least 24 hours notice if I can't do a job as this gives the agency enough time to find somebody else. They monitor cancellations and sanction no-shows without notice. I think the worst they can do is kick you out of their database for good (obviously no references either) but maybe in the USA it's more common to sue, I don't know. My point is, have a system in place and tell your interpreters what the proper way is to cancel an appointment and what the consequences are if they fail to adhere to it.


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Arianna Aguilar
Local time: 09:22
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Response Feb 22, 2009

Thanks for your responses everybody!

In the United States, workman's compensation clients require invoices (and a report) with the doctor's, case managers, therapist, etc. signature within 24 hours of the appointment. (This is for the insurance company who authorizes payment). Not sending an invoice within 24 hours means no (or reduced) payment, and the client can't attend his/her next appointment. So in this case, it is not simply a piece of paper. If it were any other type of case, my attitude would be "It looks like she doesn't mind working for free.." and I would do nothing about it, or even simply bill the client and not pay the interpreter. Besides, this requirement is clearly spelled out in our contract, and everyone else seems to be able to fulfill it!

Yes, we did call the interpreter, at all telephone numbers. No response.

We do have a disciplinary policy in place. Example: 1) no invoice, no payment, (or reduced payment, as case may be) 2) our error, we pay the interpreter regardless (such as double-booking, or a cancellation, etc.) 3) can't fulfill assignment due to an emergency, no payment but no discipline 4) failing to complete assignment without notifying us, then termination of contract.


We require written confirmation of all assignments, then we also require oral confirmation less then 24 hours before the assignment (we call the interpreter). Since this was a new interpreter, we received written confirmation at the time the assignment was given, then at the beginning of the week, then the day before, then oral confirmation the night before. The client even said that the interpreter gave them oral confirmation two days prior.

What I have decided to do is 1) not pay the interpreter 2) Send a termination letter and recoup our actual losses. If the interpreter sends in the invoice (which we still need) then that will reduce the amount she owes us.

This is also spelled out in our contract.

Anyway, we have some great interpreters on staff. My problem was with two new interpreters, who strangely enough had great resumes, excellent references, experience, and language skills. So I guess that's why I feel so strongly about it. This isn't someone new starting out who might be confused.

But anyway, I think this post needs to be titled: How to not get work as an interpreter.

That would be:
1) Try to date the client (or try to sell them AVON, invite them to your church, insert any other inappropriate conduct here)
2) Bring your kids or elderly parents to your appointment (you couldn't find a sitter)
3) During your appointment, make sure you hand out all your business cards, or inquire about their new receptionist opening
4) Not show up because you just couldn't squeeze it into your schedule or forgot you had something better to do
5) Don't ever answer your telephone, pager, e-mail, home number, office number, and don't call back for a few days, at least.
6) Unless, of course, if it's nearing payday, then by all means, call as many times necessary to confirm that indeed, you will be getting a check.
7) And always remember, when you get a side job, by all means, identify yourself with our company or why not, say we certified you and then when you get the job, let us know you are no longer available for assignments.

Lol, did I miss anything?

[Edited at 2009-02-22 14:31 GMT]


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