Common Complaints Against Interpreters
People file complaints against interpreters for multiple reasons. Some common reasons for complaints against interpreters include mistakes in interpreting, lack of impartiality, and lack of professionalism.
Essentially, anyone who believes an interpreter has engaged in unprofessional, irresponsible, or illegal activity or behavior has the right to file a complaint. Some of the more common allegations brought against interpreters include:
- Complaints involving interpreter services in another jurisdiction.
- Violations of professional codes of conduct.
- Conviction of a felony or a lesser crime involving dishonesty or questionable ethics.
- Providing incompetent interpretation.
- Incomplete or inaccurate translation.
- Providing professional services during a license suspension.
- Dishonest or inaccurate billing for interpreter services.
It’s important to be well-trained, impartial, and professional to communicate effectively and avoid complaints. In addition, we recommend being proactive about protecting your license. An experienced lawyer will review your case and work with you to develop a solid defense strategy.
What to Do If a Complaint Is Made Against You
During the formal investigation stage, you will be notified by a licensing specialist of the complaint against you and will have up to 20 days to respond in writing. Ignoring the allegations could cost you your career even if you know you did not violate any commission rules or laws.
Building a strong defense takes the legal knowledge of an experienced professional license defense attorney. Even if you have worked as an interpreter for many years, you may not be familiar with the regulations and laws governing license suspension and renewals. We apply our deep knowledge of licensing law, licensing authorities, and our understanding of your career. Our trusted, experienced defense lawyers are here to help fight the allegations against you. We know each case is unique, and we will leave no stone unturned when gathering evidence to support your appeal.
Who Oversees Interpreter License Complaints?
Complaints against interpreter licenses are handled by the Texas Judicial Branch Certification Commission (JBCC), an agency that oversees and regulates interpreter licenses. After a complaint is filed, the JBCC will investigate the allegations and determine if there is sufficient evidence to take disciplinary action. The JBCC will then determine the complaint’s jurisdiction and formally investigate the alleged misconduct.
After the JBCC Reviews the Evidence
Once both parties have had the opportunity to present evidence to support their case, the JBCC will review this information and deliberate. If they make recommendations that could adversely impact your life, we may need to move forward with a hearing. During this hearing, both parties can present their case in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ will consider the evidence presented and make a Proposal for Decision (PFD). It is important to have legal representation during a hearing to ensure that your rights are protected and that your case is presented in the best possible light.
State Office of Administrative Hearing
If the JBCC fails to resolve your case, you must attend a hearing before an ALJ at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).
This hearing will allow you to present evidence and documents and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. You have the right to legal representation before and during your hearing. This is where our team can help you prepare and defend your case. We have over 20 years of experience and focus exclusively on defending professionals who need to protect or restore their licenses and reputations.
Potential Penalties If You Are Found in Violation of Commission Rules
If the JBCC finds you violated commission rules or the law, they may impose sanctions and other disciplinary actions, including the following:
- License suspension: Depending on the violation severity, you may face a temporary or permanent suspension of your license. Sometimes, interpreters may be required to attend additional training or take corrective measures to reinstate their license.
- Written reprimand: A written reprimand is typically used as a warning before more serious disciplinary action, such as suspension. When a professional interpreter receives a written reprimand, they should take it seriously and follow the instructions.
- License nonrenewal: License nonrenewal can significantly impact your ability to practice as a licensed interpreter. If your license is not renewed, you may be unable to continue working as an interpreter. In these cases, it is important to seek legal advice from an experienced interpreter license defense attorney.
- Indefinite license revocation: Indefinite license revocation is a serious penalty if you are found guilty of misconduct following legal proceedings. In these cases, the interpreter’s license may be revoked without a set time period for reinstatement. This means that the interpreter will not be able to practice their profession until the relevant licensing board or authority grants them a new license.
- Mandatory continuing education: Mandatory continuing education ensures you stay up to date on the latest developments in your field and any law changes and regulations that may affect your work. Mandatory continuing education can be especially beneficial if you are defending against allegations of professional misconduct or other violations of your license.
A qualified attorney from our law firm could help you understand what to expect during a licensing board investigation and stand at your side through the process.
Consequences If You Lose Your License
JBCC decisions could have a devastating impact on your life. Depending on the details of your case, your career and livelihood could be on the line. A license suspension or revocation can also permanently damage your professional reputation. An experienced attorney could negotiate with the JBCC for lesser penalties, such as a written reprimand or corrective action.
Evidence We May Gather to Bolster Your Defense
We have experience in gathering evidence that could be used to prove you are a qualified interpreter and were not engaging in misconduct. Examples of this material include:
Photos can be a powerful tool in your licensing dispute defense. We can use them to show that you professionally performed your duties and followed all applicable laws and regulations. Photos can also help demonstrate your expertise level and experience.
In many cases, video footage can prove that you were acting professionally and following the interpreters’ code of ethics. For example, if you were accused of misinterpreting or omitting information as a foreign language interpreter, video footage can show you were accurately conveying all relevant information.
Witness statements can provide valuable insight into the events leading up to and during the incident. They can provide details about your certification of attendance, qualifications, experience, and professionalism that could prove your innocence. Witnesses may include clients, colleagues, supervisors, or others who have interacted with you.
Expert testimony is given by someone with specialized knowledge or experience in a particular field. In the context of interpreter license defense cases, an expert witness may be asked to provide their opinion on laws and regulations related to the licensing process or to explain the implications of certain actions or decisions.
For example, a sign language interpreter was accused of interpreting in a way considered disrespectful or dismissive of the Deaf community. In this case, an expert witness could provide testimony that refutes this claim and upholds the Deaf interpreter’s character.
Testimony from Former Clients
Testimony from former clients can be used to demonstrate your professionalism and competence and show your history of providing superior services. When presenting testimony from former clients, you, or your attorney, should provide any positive feedback or specific instances where your work was particularly effective. Additionally, ensure that this testimony is from credible sources that have used your services and can speak to your experience.
It can also cover the interpreting type, such as consecutive or simultaneous, and the foreign languages you are proficient in. Finally, it can be valuable to include testimonials from diverse clients who can speak to your adaptability to different cultures and settings.
Relevant documentation can establish your qualifications, demonstrate your proficiency in the interpreting language, and provide evidence of relevant training or experience. Documentation should include copies of your license, certifications, transcripts from language courses, letters of recommendation from employers or clients, and other documents supporting your interpreter qualifications.
Interpreters Are Held to a High Professional Standard
Like other professionals, interpreters are held to a high professional standard to protect the public. If a complaint is made against you, the Texas Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (BEI), which issues and monitors interpreter licenses, will likely take it seriously.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), under which the BEI operates, has adopted the Code of Professional Conduct used by the National Association of the Deaf. These guidelines govern the professional conduct of all interpreters certified by the HHSC.
This code of conduct requires all interpreters to:
- Possess the professional skills and knowledge required to do the job.
- Adhere to the standards of confidential communication.
- Demonstrate respect for consumers.
- Appropriately conduct themselves for the interpreting situation.
- Maintain ethical business practices.
- Demonstrate respect for others in the profession, including interns, students, colleagues, and supervisors.
- Engage in professional development.