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Working for competing companies
Thread poster: Aya Deutsch

Aya Deutsch  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 00:22
Member (2010)
English to Hebrew
Feb 26

I was recently "dismissed" from working as a freelancer on a rather large project rather large project because of working as a freelancer (of course) for a competing agency. The company's representative claimed that this is the company's policy.
I need assistance in relating to a. the fact that working with that other agency was never mentioned as a condition. b. the fact that as a freelancer I am not involved in the agencies' competition, and in any case am bound by their NDAs.
Does
... See more
I was recently "dismissed" from working as a freelancer on a rather large project rather large project because of working as a freelancer (of course) for a competing agency. The company's representative claimed that this is the company's policy.
I need assistance in relating to a. the fact that working with that other agency was never mentioned as a condition. b. the fact that as a freelancer I am not involved in the agencies' competition, and in any case am bound by their NDAs.
Does anyone know of a way to tackle this issue?
Many thanks
Aya
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Liviu-Lee Roth
United States
Local time: 17:22
Romanian to English
+ ...
My opinion Feb 26

I think that this pertains mostly to local rules.
Here, in the US, I work as a translator for three competing agencies that have a specific contract with the US government and they know that I work for all three competitors. No problems, so far. As an interpreter, the same thing; many agencies know that I work also for/with their competitors.
It sounds absurd to me to "dismiss" you for that reason. You are a freelance translator, not an employee. It may be illegal, also.

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I think that this pertains mostly to local rules.
Here, in the US, I work as a translator for three competing agencies that have a specific contract with the US government and they know that I work for all three competitors. No problems, so far. As an interpreter, the same thing; many agencies know that I work also for/with their competitors.
It sounds absurd to me to "dismiss" you for that reason. You are a freelance translator, not an employee. It may be illegal, also.

Good luck,
Lee
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William Tierney  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:22
Member (2002)
Arabic to English
Police the Industry Feb 26

Dear Aya,

Please let us all know the name of the company. Why should bad actors be allowed to operate without accountability? If they have a side to the story, they can get on this forum and give their side. In case you haven't noticed, the translation industry is in a sorry state and one of the reasons is that we, and organizations like ATA, allow agencies to perpetuate onerous business practices.


Liviu-Lee Roth
valerie hussar
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
shady biz Feb 26

Hello Aya--while (A) parties should execute the contract and (B) companies often change their rules, in some countries like the USA various requirements and some imitations *may* be used to re-qualify a freelancer as an employee--with the corresponding consequences.

 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Question Feb 26

How did they know you were working for another agency?

Either way, I’d say that if they don’t want to use you that’s their business. I don’t see the point in contesting it.

[Edited at 2019-02-26 20:42 GMT]


Kevin Fulton
Dan Lucas
Teresa Borges
Sheila Wilson
Joe France
Jorge Payan
Tom Stevens
 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:22
German to English
Better off not working for an agency like this Feb 26

Although a policy like this is ultimately self-defeating for an agency, companies are free to set their own requirements as long as they stay within the law. There is no telling what other ridiculous policies they may spring on you.

I was once approached by a local agency that required its freelancers to list their clients. Although this particular agency displayed its own clients' logos on its web site, I was not about to share the names of my customers. From discussions with colle
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Although a policy like this is ultimately self-defeating for an agency, companies are free to set their own requirements as long as they stay within the law. There is no telling what other ridiculous policies they may spring on you.

I was once approached by a local agency that required its freelancers to list their clients. Although this particular agency displayed its own clients' logos on its web site, I was not about to share the names of my customers. From discussions with colleagues, apparently this same agency frequently requires freelancers to perform translations in their corporate office. No thanks!
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Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:22
English to French
+ ...
Contract law Feb 26

Did you have a contract with the agency which dismissed you? Was the reason given to terminate the contract stipulated in the contract?

This is a contract law issue. If you are serious about it, the way to deal with it is to consult a competent lawyer. However, a lawsuit, should it come to that, will cost you money.



Aya Deutsch wrote:

I was recently "dismissed" from working as a freelancer on a rather large project rather large project because of working as a freelancer (of course) for a competing agency. The company's representative claimed that this is the company's policy.
I need assistance in relating to a. the fact that working with that other agency was never mentioned as a condition. b. the fact that as a freelancer I am not involved in the agencies' competition, and in any case am bound by their NDAs.
Does anyone know of a way to tackle this issue?
Many thanks
Aya


 

Aya Deutsch  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 00:22
Member (2010)
English to Hebrew
TOPIC STARTER
The status of a freelance translator Feb 27

Thank you all for responding.
I wanted to add that:
a. The NDA I signed with the company does not imply in any way that I am their employee.
b. I see advertising the companies I work for as an advantage. Of course, I do not disclose their clients.

But most importantly: I see this case to be one that undermines seriously our status as freelance translators.
By definition, we offer services to private clients or companies and we promise them quality work and
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Thank you all for responding.
I wanted to add that:
a. The NDA I signed with the company does not imply in any way that I am their employee.
b. I see advertising the companies I work for as an advantage. Of course, I do not disclose their clients.

But most importantly: I see this case to be one that undermines seriously our status as freelance translators.
By definition, we offer services to private clients or companies and we promise them quality work and guarantee their privacy.
We, therefore, do not need to hide who are the agencies we are working with, and we should not suffer a disruption of our services because someone suddenly flags us out as what? potential spies? people who would compromise their work? I really do not understand.

Please raise your voices.

Many thanks,
Aya
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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:22
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
It's their choice Feb 27

Aya Deutsch wrote:
We, therefore, do not need to hide who are the agencies we are working with, and we should not suffer a disruption of our services because someone suddenly flags us out as what? potential spies? people who would compromise their work? I really do not understand.

Need? No, we do not need to hide, but there are consequences to speaking freely on commercial matters. I personally would never give any of my clients the names of other agencies or companies with which I work.

Contrary to your opinion, agencies are free to select whoever they like to work for them, for whatever reason they like (discrimination on race, sex, religion, etc. aside). Agencies use freelancers because the full-time employment of dozens of in-house translators, governed by stringent employment laws and regulations, would be an impossible fixed cost for the vast majority of companies in an industry, by which I mean translation, that is characterised by uncertain flows of work. The use of freelancers allows them to convert that burden into a variable cost, which makes agencies viable. If they had to treat freelancers as if those freelancers were their own employees, that would render the entire model pointless, not to say unworkable, right?

As a freelancer, by definition you don't have an employment contract in the normal sense of the word, right? So the normal protections do not apply. Unless you can prove discrimination as defined by under local law, you are not going to be able to do much. This is the flip side of not having to worry about a boss standing over us, of being able to work where we wish, of being able to pick and choose the projects we want, of taking holidays when we like.

I suspect that you won't achieve anything other than upsetting yourself further. Move on. Find another client. And in future, never reveal the names on your existing client list, whether they be agencies (yes, they are your clients!), companies or individuals.

Regards,
Dan


Angela Rimmer
Teresa Borges
Sheila Wilson
Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Jorge Payan
Philippe Etienne
Michele Fauble
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:22
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Chris's question Feb 27

You didn't answer Chris's key question:

How did they know you were working for another agency?


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:22
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
What do you mean by "dismissed", and in what way was there competition? Feb 27

Aya Deutsch wrote:
I was recently "dismissed" from working as a freelancer on a rather large project rather large project because of working as a freelancer (of course) for a competing agency. The company's representative claimed that this is the company's policy.

A lot depends on what actually happened. Did they actually try to "discipline" you in any way? For example, did they refuse to pay some or all of what you were due? That might be cause for litigation (although it might not). Or did they pay all outstanding invoices and say they wouldn't be sending you any further work? That can happen anywhere at any time as a freelancer; in fact we don't often get prior notice - they just disappear.

One thing to bear in mind is whether you could have known about this situation in advance. I personally don't often sign contracts with my clients, but when I do there's often a non-compete clause - either in the service agreement or in the NDA - that talks about knowingly working with one of their clients. And in other cases when I don't sign a contract there's a link somewhere to their T&C which I'm deemed to have read and implicitly agreed to. Are you saying that you worked on a project for this client, and were working on the same project for another client -- so the end client in both cases was the same? I can imagine that might upset an agency greatly, even though it doesn't need to do anyone any harm. But if they got upset because you, as a freelancer translator, were working with other translation agencies, well they've got many more upsets ahead!


Kay Denney
Kay-Viktor Stegemann
 

Aya Deutsch  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 00:22
Member (2010)
English to Hebrew
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all. I appreciate the time taken to read and respond. Feb 27

The storyline:
I was approached via Linkedin by a contact person.
Emails were exchanged;
I signed an NDA;
I received the first (of presumably many to come) packages for translation, completed and returned it; a second package arrived, and I started working on it.
I then received an email from the contact person: "It’s come to our attention that you’re working with XXX. Can I check which project you’re working on there? It is likely a conflict for us".
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The storyline:
I was approached via Linkedin by a contact person.
Emails were exchanged;
I signed an NDA;
I received the first (of presumably many to come) packages for translation, completed and returned it; a second package arrived, and I started working on it.
I then received an email from the contact person: "It’s come to our attention that you’re working with XXX. Can I check which project you’re working on there? It is likely a conflict for us".
I replied: "I do all kinds of projects for XXX. However, none of them relates to YYYY or to ZZZ. Where do you see a possible conflict?"
The reply I received:
"XXX is a direct competitor of ours, so, unfortunately, we won’t be able to send you any further requests for this project. I’m terribly sorry we didn’t spot this sooner and apologize for the inconvenience this has caused. We aim to settle up your payment as soon as the counts are completed."
It appears that first there was "a danger of disclosure?" And then there was a total ban on working relationship.
I am of course moving on. But I still feel that this cannot possibly be a prerogative of an agency that can go on unattended.
Aya
Here two further quotes from the NDA (which does not have ANY mention of specific competitors):
1. Definition of Confidential Information. For purposes of this Agreement, "Confidential Information" shall include all information or material that has or could have commercial value or other utility in the business in which Disclosing Party is engaged. Confidential Information can be in written or oral form.
3. Obligations of Receiving Party. Receiving Party shall hold and maintain the Confidential Information in strictest confidence for the sole and exclusive benefit of the Disclosing Party. Receiving Party shall carefully restrict access to Confidential Information to employees, contractors and third parties as is reasonably required and shall require those persons to sign nondisclosure restrictions at least as protective as those in this Agreement. Receiving Party shall not, without prior written approval of Disclosing Party, use for Receiving Party's own benefit, publish, copy, or otherwise disclose to others, or permit the use by others for their benefit or to the detriment of Disclosing Party, any Confidential Information. Receiving Party shall return to Disclosing Party any and all records, notes, and other written, printed, or tangible materials in its possession pertaining to Confidential Information immediately if Disclosing Party requests it in writing.
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Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 23:22
Member (2016)
English to German
The agency has every right to do this Feb 27

Aya Deutsch wrote:
...I am of course moving on. But I still feel that this cannot possibly be a prerogative of an agency that can go on unattended.


I do not see what you mean by "prerogative" here. Is there any section in your contract with the agency that says you are entitled to a certain amount of projects, or that the agency is required to send you work? Probably not. The agency has every right to stop sending you work at any time even without telling you a reason. This happens all the time to all of us, like Sheila said.

You might consider it impolite or even unjust, but the agency even told you their reasons here. It's a matter of company policy, they don't want to work with freelancers who also work for their competition. There might be considerations about conflicts of interests here, justified or not, or simply the wish to fight the competition by preventing any kind of contact, or whatever goes on in their heads. That's their decision.

You might realize here that it can backfire if you publish names of clients/agencies you are working for. Even if permitted by NDAs, I would not do it.

Aya Deutsch wrote:
...I then received an email from the contact person: "It’s come to our attention that you’re working with XXX. Can I check which project you’re working on there? It is likely a conflict for us".


This, however, is a thing that the agency cannot do. No, they can not check which project you're working on there. Never ever would you tell one agency (or anyone else, for that matter), which projects you are working on for another agency. This information is probably under NDA and anyway, this is a matter of simple confidentiality. You alone can decide if you have a conflict of interest anywhere, because you alone have all the necessary information, and if you find that there is a conflict of interest anywhere, it is up to you to resolve it by stopping to work for one of the conflicting parties.

But as mentioned before, this has nothing to do with the right of the agency to stop working with you anytime. If they fulfil all their obligations from the contract (like paying your outstanding bills and all), there is nothing to complain about. Tell them that you regret that they lose a valuable partner and that you are willing to work with them again if they change their mind, and keep it professional.


Dan Lucas
Sheila Wilson
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
I think Feb 27

I think Aya's point is about respect for translators as professionals.

That Pepsi should trust a translator bound by professional ethics and non-disclosure agreements to work for Coca-Cola as well without sharing the magic recipe.

(Spoiler alert: Shedloads of sugar and chemicals.)

But I very much doubt they use the same engineering or law firms either.


 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
a relatively polite way of "free-test"scamming? Feb 27

Considering that--

(A) unlike teleworkers, by the very definition all freelancers are competitors working "one-to-many";
(B) all agencies are but rivals middlemen working "any-to-many"--an expensive gasket between freelancers and end clients;

Therefore, such an NDA is broken even before signing and coming into effect.


Besides working 8/7 for a couple of weeks, answering within 45 minutes, free "support" for several months, and oth
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Considering that--

(A) unlike teleworkers, by the very definition all freelancers are competitors working "one-to-many";
(B) all agencies are but rivals middlemen working "any-to-many"--an expensive gasket between freelancers and end clients;

Therefore, such an NDA is broken even before signing and coming into effect.


Besides working 8/7 for a couple of weeks, answering within 45 minutes, free "support" for several months, and other pro bono and terms limiting one's earning capability *may* classify an American freelancer as a teleworker or employee.

Did they pay you anything for the job?
Why not inform your contact and consult a lawyer?

It does smell ratty, indeed.

Slaves, ignorants and weaklings never get respect!

[Edited at 2019-02-27 13:04 GMT]
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