Rule 610

Every VRI and VRS Interpreter eventually espouses Resistentialism.

(Look it up and you will agree. I’ll wait.)

Rule 596

Dear VRI Interpreter:

Watch your sight-lines or clean your room!

The Client should not know it’s Monday because that pair of “day of the week” panties is missing from the clothes strewn about the room behind you.

Thank you Jared Allebest

Rule 345

Like VRI Interpreters always say:

“I am not sure who said that. Whomever it was is off camera and when I turn my head to look all I can see is the ‘hang in there’ cat poster on my wall.”

Uncle Dale’s “You Probably Should Know”: How to Request A Live Interpreter at the ER

I did this for our local Association of the Deaf.

How to request a live terp

This blog and the attached vlog are informational but not meant to be legal advice or replace discussing your situation with a licensed attorney in your area.

Uncle Dale’s “You Probably Should Know”: The Affordable Care Act and Interpreters 

OBAMACARE? Yow! Thems fightn’ words!  I have another blog where I express my political views and try to keep this one more informative and neutral. At risk of being accused of political speech hear me out!  This is something you probably should know and a scary number of people don’t.

It has to do with hospitals and doctors offices providing interpreters; even live interpreters over VRI.

A little background first. The ADA has five parts called Titles (you will never use the last two). Title II applies to government entities. Title II of the ADA has what is called the “Primary Consideration Rule.”  What that means is when a person who is Deaf attempts to access government programs, benefits and services the government entity must give “primary consideration” to the auxiliary aid or service requested by the person who is Deaf.  What that means is the government agency must give the person who is Deaf the specific aid they requested, like a live interpreter, or the government entity must prove it was not needed.  It is not easy to prove something is not needed.

Title III of the ADA doesn’t say that.

Title III has to do with accessing the services of private businesses, like hospitals and doctors offices. Title III only says the private business “should consult with” the person who is Deaf. IT INCLUDES NO OBLIGATION TO GIVE CONSIDERATION TO WHAT THE PERSON WHO IS DEAF REQUESTS NOR DOES IT EVEN OBLIGATE THE DOCTOR TO ASK OR LISTEN WHEN ASKED. It says the doctor “should” consult with the person who is Deaf, but does not make failing to consult a factor in discrimination.

In recent years when the Department of Justice has settled cases involving people who are Deaf who sue government entities (the settlement agreements are called Consent Decrees) the DOJ has begun including new language in these Consent Decrees stating that the definition of “primary consideration” now requires that the government entity ask the person who is Deaf what kind of accommodation the Deaf person needs*.

Think about that.

Prior to that language being added the expectation has always been that the government entity only had to give “primary consideration” to the auxiliary aid or service that the person who is Deaf ACTUALLY REQUESTED.  If the Deaf person didn’t ask… too bad!

Now, keep in mind that is not the current interpretation of the rule in general; it only applies to the Consent Decrees in which it is included. But, if that language is an indication of the DOJ’s intent regarding how “primary consideration” should be interpreted, if it becomes the standard, then anytime the law requires “primary consideration” the entity or business must ASK the Deaf person what they want, and give it to the Deaf person, or have the burden to explain in court why it did not.

So, compare that with Title III where the private business doesn’t even have to consider the request of the person who is Deaf who does ask… the law just says it should, not that it must.

Section 504 has always been somewhere in the middle of the two extremes of Title II and Title III. The regulations under the Department of Health and Human Services have much stronger language than “should” but still not as strong as “primary consideration.” For some weird reason HHS also limited the application of Section 504 to medical providers with 15 or more employees.  So many small town doctors are not required to follow 504. That pulls it even closer to the weaker standard of Title III.

Now. After all that build up I CAN FINALLY get to the thing you probably should know.

A couple of nights ago I was meeting with a group of people who are Deaf and who had complaints about hospitals using VRI and mentioned the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and fully 2/3 of the people in the room groaned, rolled their eyes, or made a disgusted face (I will freely admit, the Deaf Republican has always been a strange notion to me) there were comments flying around the room about how terrible Obamacare is and supporting the Senate Bill.  At this point I got everyone’s attention.

“I will not have a political discussion here,” I said, “that is not why we are here-but I will tell you all something you probably should know.”

“Most of the hospitals we are discussing fall under Title III as they are private businesses.”  I explained what the concept of “should” to them.

“Only one of the hospitals is a government entity.” I explained the benefit ‘primary consideration’ like I did above.

“All of them must follow Section 504,” I explained, “because they accept Medicare.”

Here is the kicker, ready?

Obamacare has a section called the Non-Discriminatory Rule or Section 1557.  Section 1557 applies to any health program or activity, any part of which receives HHS funding, such as hospitals that accept Medicare or doctors who receive Medicaid payments; the Health Insurance Marketplaces and issuers that participate in those Marketplaces; and any health program that HHS itself administers (Medicare Part B is excluded).

In Section 1557 it states that covered entities must give “primary consideration” to an individual’s choice of aid or service.

Yes you read that right!

The Office of Civil Rights confirmed that all covered entities will be held to the higher standards established under Title II of the ADA, which requires covered entities to give primary consideration to the choice of an aid or service requested by the individual with a disability.

OCR also explicitly stated that the communications requirements of Section 1557 apply to all providers even those with fewer than 15 employees.

In essence the ACA/Obamacare makes the standard for Section 504 the same as the standard for Title II. It means that hospitals and doctors must give you the accommodation you asked for (or maybe even ask you what you want) and if they don’t the court will make them prove a live interpreter was not needed instead of requiring the Deaf person to prove it was.

If the ACA/Obamacare goes away, so does that protection.

You should probably know that.

*Primary Consideration. In determining what type of auxiliary aid or service is necessary to comply with the ADA, the ACSO agrees to give primary consideration to the expressed preference for a particular auxiliary aid or service by an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing. “Primary consideration” means that Personnel will inquire as to the choice of auxiliary aid or service of the individual and will honor the expressed choice unless the ACSO can demonstrate that another equally effective means of communication is available.  See Consent Decree for LAWRENCE et al., v. CITY OF ENGLEWOOD, et al., and ARAPAHOE COUNTY SHERIFF para 27 https://www.ada.gov/lawrence-arapahoe.htm 2013

This blog and the attached vlog are informational but not meant to be legal advice or replace discussing your situation with a licensed attorney in your area.

http://www.refinery29.com/2017/01/138465/how-to-call-senator

Note from Uncle Dale: Non-Compete Clauses are Cute… Until They Are NOT

Uncle Dale back again!

Questions come in groups. This week everyone wants to about non-compete clauses/agreements. It even showed up on FB interpreters group.

Spring is here! “Big VRS” must be on a hiring binge, because that is when I get these questions. DO NOT TAKE ANY THING I SAY AS LEGAL ADVICE. Go talk to an attorney where you live. This is a blog called Uncle Dale’s Rules for heaven sake. Have you met your uncle? Remember your uncle last Thanksgiving? (If you have questions go talk to an attorney). This is just to get all y’all thinking.

So, what actually is a non-compete clause? It’s just like it says on the label, an agreement with your employer, it could be in writing or verbal or signed, not to compete with the employer after the employment relationship has been terminated.

The point of such an agreement is to make sure that, when you leave that job, you don’t set up shop across the road doing the same thing and using the customer list you took from your old job, or sell the knowledge or skills you acquired on this job to the competition. Makes sense right? You can’t learn the Colonel’s Secret Recipe of herbs and spices then quit and open your own chicken shack, or everyone would do just that and no one would give anyone a job because they would be training and setting up the competition.

The problem is such agreements lead to abuse. If I’m the boss, I want to hire talented people and I don’t want them taking that talent elsewhere-so I make my job offer contingent on an agreement not to work in the same industry or in the same geographic area for 2 years if you quit or are terminated. But the reason I hired you is this industry is what you do. If you can’t do it for two years if you quit then what can you do? You are kind of trapped in this company now, unless you can move outside the geographic boundaries of the agreement or live without a job for a couple of years. This gives license for an employer to mistreat employees because they CANNOT quit.

Because of the potential for abuse courts are suspicious of them generally and not every state allows this kind of agreement under statute. Oklahoma bans them out right. See 15 OK Stat § 15-219A (2014). California doesn’t like them. Its State law says they are not allowed, but in practice they may be allowed sometimes to protect Trade Secrets. Cal. Business & Professions Code sec. 16600. New York is contemplating banning them (more on that later) and Massachusetts is trying to prevent abuse by making it unattractive for an employer to enforce one.

I’m already hearing snoring out there so I will try to spice this up a bit!

Suppose you go to work for a VRS company, they are going to want you to sign all kinds of crap before you can sit in the chair and do your thing. They may want you to sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement).(As the FCC covers the VRS interpreting part of this by strict legal requirements regarding privacy the NDA covers the workplace itself). You can’t tell anyone outside the company what the office looks like, or the equipment or way you log-in and out of the system… seriously. This stuff is protected. When in doubt just don’t talk about it!

Assignment Agreements… hummm… Proprietary Information and Invention Assignment Agreement, or PIIA for short. That is when you agree that anything you invent or think up while working for them belongs to them. These agreements are iffy, yes, but still may be enforceable. You know what? That is its own Note (I’ve seen these pop up lately in VRS employment agreements). Long story short these are hard for companies to enforce if you can show you created the workshop or did the research on your own time and without company funds or equipment.

Non-Compete Agreements. Ok they could be included in the middle of a whole lot of other clauses in a contract or a stand alone document. Ether way the first thing you need to know is a Non-Compete Agreement is a contract. Even if it’s in the middle of another contract, in some States it is still a separate contract.

What is a contract you ask?

A contract has three parts:

Offer;

Acceptance; and,

Consideration.

The first two are pretty well taken care of the minute you sit your butt in the chair. The third is more complex. Consideration is “the price of the agreement.” Each side is getting a benefit-the company gets your work and you get a paycheck but what are each of you paying for the non-compete? You are paying with giving your right to go work somewhere else and the company? Is giving you a paycheck? But that is for the work you are doing not the agreement not to compete. Remember, that is a separate contractual agreement. Some states say the company has to pay you something separate for that, others say continued employment is the consideration paid by the company. That always seemed like a threat more than a payment but the law is rarely pretty. Check with a lawyer in your own state!!!!

Here is the crux of it. Can a company just require you to sign away you ability to work as a VRS interpreter with anyone else as a condition of employment? No. (Maybe).

Non-Compete Clauses are there to protect from you walking out the door with trade secrets or goodwill (the client’s have not bonded with the company so much as with you and will follow you out the door) or with their extraordinary investment in training or education. These are the things a Non-Compete is supposed to cover.

So. Ask yourself VRS interpreter, what do you have when you leave that you did not have when you walked in?  I don’t mean to offend but VRS interpreters are like fast food workers, we are not getting and McDonald’s secrets that we are selling to Burger King. You come, you do your job, you go home. We really came in with the skills to do the job and have the same skills when we leave. (Don’t get too comfortable wait till we talk about Jimmy Johns!)

Do you have a customer list?

No.

Do you have any special knowledge about the algorithm or programming or mechanics of how VRS works, I mean technology wise, that you could sell to a competing VRS company?

No.

Are customers going to change VRS provides because you stopped working for one and started with another?

No (they don’t even know your name).

Did the VRS provider train you to interpret or did they hire you because you already knew how? Is there a unique or secret interpreting technique used by THIS VRS company that others are just DYING to get their hands on?

No.

Last but not least, did they invest a great deal of time and money in your training?

Maybe.

Did they pay for workshops? Did they pay for your certification testing? That is where it gets sticky. Courts will likely have to decide if the amount they invested makes the Non-Compete enforceable or not.

So, in places where Non-Compete agreements are allowed there are some general rules to how courts test if it is valid or not.

Courts want to know if the Non-Compete agreement is a product bad faith in the negotiations, in other words is the company using this for an illegitimate purpose (indentured servitude-you can’t leave so we don’t have to pay you well or treat you well);

Is the non-compete agreement necessary to protect legitimate business interest (is there really something you could walk out the door with that would hurt our position in the market or help our competitor);

Is the agreement reasonable in time, space, and scope; and,

What is the consideration of hardship (does it say you can’t work in this field anywhere in the whole country forever or just within 5 blocks for 2 years?)

The new sort of catch-all I am seeing in the case law is the simple question “would enforcing the non-compete agreement just be bad policy.”

For example in New York the court agreed that Jimmy Johns could enforce its Non-Compete agreement which stated that after an employee left they could not work for a competing sandwich maker, or any company that derived more than ten percent of its income from putting meat and cheese inside of bread, if that business is located within 3 miles of a Jimmy Johns, and for two years.

Think about that. What trade secret would a Jimmy Johns employee have? Jimmy Johns are so prevenient that the 3 mile rule covers most of the US. MacDonald’s-out, Burger King out. Any restaurant that serves subs or wraps-out. According to the New York court you could not work at an amusement park that sold food or bowling alley if the snack bar sold sandwiches if there was a Jimmy Johns within three miles. What if your company has cafateria? It would depend on if the cafateria constituted at least 10% of the businesses earnings.

I tell you all of this this because I have worked in VRS and other industries that have required Non-Compete agreement.

I signed them.

I signed them because the difficulty in enforcing them makes the chances the company will try minimal. Moreover if the company does try, in the current environment, the company will likely lose.

On two occasions I have actually received very stern cease and desist letters telling me I could not work at the place I was, or was going to, work.

I wrote the attorneys back on both occasions. I told them how adorable I though their cease and desist letters were, explained what a Non-Compete Clause was, wished them all the luck in the world in enforcing it and told them where they could stick it.

But I’m me. And it’s fun to be me.

Talk with an attorney before you sign one, but don’t lose a ton of sleep.

Last comments. After the New York court supported Jimmy Johns, the New York legislature started working on making such oppressive non-compete clauses illegal. Jimmy johns was sued in several other states and after having to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars (over 100,000 in Illinois alone) had dropped its non-compete agreement from its conditions for employment.

Massachusetts has been trying to pass a law that says if a company tries to enforce a Non-Compete agreement it must pay 100% of the former employees highest pay rate for the duration of the time the employer is not to work in the industry (didn’t pass this time but keep trying Massachusetts!)

I know I make even the shortest story long but the point of all of this is Non Compete clauses are generally disfavored. But don’t treat them lightly.

http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/FACExhibitA.pdf