Pennsylvania Court Interpreters Win Fight for Fair Compensation

The Tri-State Language Access Coalition (TSLAC) announced on Nov. 22 that after a months-long legal battle, Pennsylvania courts will adopt new compensation standards in an effort to improve the “quality and professionalism of language services in the justice system.”

TSLAC has been working with the American Translators Association and other groups to advocate for interpreters working in Pennsylvania’s court system, as earlier this year Pennsylvania was set to adopt a policy that would significantly reduce the pay of courtroom interpreters in the state. After pushback from several groups, the Pennsylvania court system agreed to adopt new standards to protect and improve the working conditions of interpreters working in the system.

“We are pleased to share the good news that Pennsylvania courts have heeded the overwhelming evidence provided by TSLAC & our allies advancing #CivilRights & #ProfessionalLinguists,” TSLAC wrote in a Facebook post announcing the development.

According to TSLAC, Pennsylvania interpreters would have had a 50% pay cut for remote interpreting services. Specifically, the policy would have made it so that remote interpreters could not work more than “one hour in duration.” In May and June, TSLAC and the ATA began developing an alliance with other activist groups, politicians, and lawyers, in order to advocate for better conditions and compensation for interpreters. 

Finally, in response to pressure from these groups, the Pennsylvania courts decided to adopt a new rule, which would require the interpreters to work no less than two hours on a given case. Additionally, TSLAC noted that the new policy will also include provisions to improve the way the court system handles travel and cancellation. The courts will publish the new policy in full on Dec. 4, and it will go into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2022.

“At a time when many Pennsylvanians are more focused on equity, on the dignity and human rights of often overlooked and vulnerable populations, and on strengthening our long neglected human infrastructure, we are glad that professional linguists will NOT be left behind,” the advocacy group’s Facebook post reads.

Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.

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