Translate Your Arbitration Agreements

Arbitration Agreement Translations for Diverse Workforce

Arbitration agreement translation services play an important part in the employment law. Arbitration agreements are a faster, more efficient, and cost effective way to settle disputes between employers and employees. Moreover, the federal law favors such agreements because they keep a voluminous amount of employment disputes out of the regular courts to ensure that the wheels of justice keep turning.

Given the many benefits arbitration agreements provide to your company, you want to make sure they are enforced. Accordingly, it is vital that you, as business owner, manager, or human resource professional, ensure that your employees understand that the arbitration agreement is part of the employer-employee relationship. That becomes an issue if you have a workforce in which some employees have difficulty with English. If that is your situation, then hiring a legal translation services company would be your answer.

A recent case involving the immensely popular ride-sharing app, Uber, is instructive in that regard.

Absence of English to Chinese Translation of Arbitration Agreement in Guan v. Uber Technologies, NY Federal District Court (2017)

The plaintiffs in Guan v. Uber are drivers for Uber. They are Chinese and do not speak or read English. When they signed up to be Uber drivers on the Uber app, they clicked the “I AGREE” button on two occasions in order to register as drivers. By clicking on that button, they acknowledged their agreement to Uber’s driver policies, including an arbitration agreement that requires drivers to bring any disputes against Uber before an arbitrator, not a court. The Uber app they were using was translated into Chinese. However, the arbitration agreement on the app was only in English.

The plaintiffs had a dispute with Uber about the underpayment of tolls. They raised their dispute in a breach of contract lawsuit in court. Uber, in response, moved to compel arbitration based on the arbitration agreement. The issue before the court was whether the arbitration agreement could be enforced given that it was not translated into Chinese, even though the plaintiffs clicked the “I AGREE” button (thereby agreeing to the terms of employment, including the arbitration agreement).

The court emphasized the fact that (i) Uber’s arbitration agreement was prominently displayed, in all caps; (ii) the plaintiffs had to click “I AGREE” on two occasions in order to register; and (iii) the plaintiffs had no limitation on the time they could review the arbitration agreement. Accordingly, the court ultimately held that the plaintiffs must go to arbitration, despite the fact that the English agreement was not translated to Chinese.

While the outcome was in favor of Uber, other courts may not give the company a pass for not translating their arbitration agreements. For example, consider the case of Carmona v. Lincoln Millennium Car Wash.

Carmona v. Lincoln Millennium Car Wash, CA State Appeals Court (2014)

In Carmona, employees of Lincoln Millennium Car Wash sued for wage-and-hour violations. The Car Wash moved to compel arbitration. The court denied the motion, finding the arbitration agreement unconscionable. In refusing to enforce the arbitration agreement, the court reasoned that only portions of the arbitration agreement were translated into Spanish for the plaintiff employees.

The court reasoned that the employees of the Car Wash did not understand what they were signing. Therefore, the employees could not be held to abide by the arbitration agreement.

The decision in Guan v. Uber, in fact, is not inconsistent with Carmona, given that the Uber court assumed that the employees in that case had the time to have the arbitration agreement translated. It was not that the court had no issue with the agreement being in English only, but that the employees were given an opportunity to translate the agreement if they wanted to.

In sum, both cases demonstrate that the way in which to avoid unnecessary litigation – i.e., avoiding having to take the extra step of filing a motion to compel arbitration in court – is to have translations available for employees ahead of time. Some tips could help make that process easier.

How Legal Translation Services Can Enhance the Enforceability of Your Company’s Arbitration Agreements with LEP Employees

It follows that your employment policies, including an arbitration agreement, need to be understandable to your employees. Here are four practical tips on how to do that.

First, have your company’s most important policies, such as the arbitration agreement, translated into multiple languages. That is a sure-fire way to have your workforce understand your company’s policies.

Second, if you believe translating many policies into multiple languages is prohibitive, simply draft a brief statement in multiple languages that can be attached to company policies. This brief statement should explain that the employee handbook (or other compilation of policies) is solely in English, and that if an employee wishes to read the handbook or policies in their native language, then they should contact human resources.

Third, rather than have policies in multiple languages, your company can bring in an interpreter for an employee when the employee executes the form that acknowledges that they have read and understood the company’s policies.

Fourth, hold periodic training sessions for your employees on the company’s policies. Through those interactions, it will likely be possible to learn which employees are struggling with English. Then, your company can make sure those employees have a legal interpreter to have the company policies sight translated to them.

Legal Translation Services as the Common Denominator to All of the Tips Above

The answer to avoiding unnecessary litigation in court, and following the tips listed above, comes down to one thing – legal translation services. Indeed, having a high-quality, reliable legal translation service on hand to help your company on the front end will save you lots of time, money, and resources on the back end.

All Language Alliance, Inc. provides excellent legal translation services in many, many languages. We can, in writing, translate a complex arbitration agreement into multiple languages. We also can help you translate into multiple languages any catch-all statement directing employees with limited-English skills to contact HR.

This law translation blog article should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal needs.

We respond to short-term, short-notice on-site translation and interpretation needs in Spanish, Korean, Somali, Mongolian, Tigrinya, Bosnian, Chinese, Arabic, Burmese, Lao, Vietnamese, Russian, and other languages. Better be safe than sorry. Translate your arbitration agreements today, or have legal interpreters available to your limited English proficient (LEP) employees, through All Language Alliance, Inc.

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