Reading a contract

One of the judges I worked for regularly during the Great Purge following the attacks on the Pentagon and civilian skyscrapers suggested I work for an additional company. She was referring to these bloated and top-heavy organizations governments are comfortable with exempting from competitive bidding. Court interpreters tend to focus extra attention on recommendations made by judges, so I contacted the company and received a dreary stack of forms to fill out.

Because life expectancies are limited,  it pays to read over the material before reaching for a pencil and filling in blanks. The main contract contained sentences with no object, others with no verb, and similar scars of the sort that result from inept editing. Repairing these contracts is a waste of time. This I knew from having spent dozens of hours on the thankless task over the course of several years. So I informed the employee that the contract was defective, with problems on page such-and-such, and to contact me again after corrections were made.

The reaction was the sort of gasp you’d expect were you to tell a mother to put her baby in the oven and turn on the gas. But it is the same everywhere. The people who seek these corporate timecard jobs do not think like free-range independent contractors who live by their wits or starve. I would bet money the problem was never reported back up the pecking order, and that hundreds of eager and starry-eyed young linguists hurriedly signed the mess without a why or a wherefore. When the judge eventually asked me about the company I reported that their contract was a garbled mess. She smiled, and that was the end of the matter.

With no surprise, and some schadenfreude, I notice the same company is suddenly getting a lot of free publicity. The  Department of Labor is forcing them to pay hundreds of employees and thousands of interpreters close to a million and a half dollars for letting themselves get screwed by blindly signing defective agreements.  The Home Office in what used to be England is also experiencing difficulties with its mass-herding of careless interpreters.

This is evolution in action. Folks who do not bother to put up a website and state their policies are fair game for economic exploitation by bigger fish. Signing contracts without reading and understanding the text is just plain dumb.  When someone baits you with a bad agreement, you can make a counteroffer using standard agreements from the Freelancers Union, the American Translators Association or by writing or having an attorney write you a bid form or agreement boilerplate.

This has been a continuing education presentation by www.Portugueseinterpreter.com

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