Legal Translations for Global HR
We’ve blogged about the role that legal document translation services play in helping multinational companies with offices overseas and international human resources that hire multilingual employees comply with the workplace language laws of other countries.
A French labor union sued a U.S. multinational corporation with an office in France for issuing HR documents only in English. The result – the company had to pay a $800,000 fine.
Hispanic employees brought a sexual harassment suit against a Colorado company. The company’s written anti-harassment policy was not translated into Spanish. The result – the company paid a $255,000 settlement to resolve the matter.
These two examples demonstrate a larger point – don’t let your company be penny wise and pound foolish. Any savings your company realizes on the front end by choosing not to translate important HR documents and other company-wide communications into the languages of its employees with limited English proficiency, or LEP employees, will be outweighed by the sums your company will pay in legal fines and settlements on the back end. How do you avoid such costly lawsuits? Employ an experienced, professional legal translation service All Language Alliance, Inc.
• The Need For Uniform Global Communications Has Increased
There was a time when a multinational corporation allowed its overseas satellite offices to operate relatively independently. Beyond a handful of communications or visits from senior executives, an overseas office would run its own shop. That also meant having communication occur in the native language of that overseas office. Rarely, if ever, would a front-line employee in an overseas satellite deal with headquarters. Accordingly, work rules for a sales office in Munich were written in German; HR policies in Caracas were written in Spanish; and an employment contract in Rome was written in Italian.
While that still may be the case today in many respects, the increased use of a company-wide intranet and the increased need for uniformity in HR policies has led the headquarters of multinational corporations to set forth more and more international HR communications. Indeed, a corporation needs to inform its employees globally of its employee handbook, ethics codes, whistleblower hotline, and benefits packages, to name a few. In addition, there is always the need to communicate to all employees on important news-of-the-company announcements.
Invariably, multinationals in an effort to act uniformly (and save on costs) send their global communications only in English. Some corporations have even gone so far as to declare that English is the corporation’s “official language.”
While an all-English approach has its advantages – more efficient and cheaper than translating documents into several languages – legal and practical hurdles stand in the way.
• Legal Document Translation Services Are Required for Multinational Employers to Comply with the Law in Some Countries
Countries such as Portugal, Poland, France, Chile, Belgium, and Canada’s province Quebec expressly make it illegal for a company to fail to translate employee communications in the native language of the relevant office. In fact, the French lawsuit mentioned above is a result of France’s law. In addition, other jurisdictions including Spain, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Israel have laws that essentially limit the enforceability of certain work rules that were not translated for employees into their native language.
Moreover, even where formal laws are not in place, courts will often look askance at a company’s policies, rules, and regulations that are not translated into an employee’s native language. Thus, your company will face a great deal of legal uncertainty in a lawsuit if important HR communications have not been translated into the relevant native language.
• Translating Human Resources Communications Avoids Unnecessary Practical Problems
Not only will a multinational, or multilingual, corporation need to consider the legal mandates of other countries, but also failing to translate company-wide communications leads to practical problems. Rank and file employees in a non-English-speaking country will most certainly run into misunderstandings if documents shared company-wide are complex or include legal terminology. Further, the morale of employees in satellite offices can suffer when important communications come only in a language they likely do not understand. In fact, several years ago, 185 French employees staged a strike because a UK-based company communicated only in English.
Even when corporations do attempt to translate important global communications or corporate policies, they can still run into problems – bad translations. Poor translations can lead to further confusion. Sometimes a corporation will ask a bilingual employee to do translations, when that person does not have any expertise in creating accurate translations.
• Legal Translation Services Keep Multinational Corporations Out of Legal Hot Water
To protect your corporation, and combat the legal and practical obstacles that emerge from failing to translate HR communications, you should employ the services of a professional, experienced legal translation service that specializes in quality, location-appropriate document translations. Contact All Language Alliance, Inc. for legal document translations from and into French, Hebrew, German, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Estonian, Greek, Dutch, and other languages. We ensure that complex documents, such as human resource manuals, codes of conduct, employee onboarding, human resources training materials and other legal documents, are translated clearly and accurately every time.
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