Lawsuit after translator at chicken farm fired

January 7, 2014

What is the ethical role of the interpreter?

Lawsuit after translator at chicken farm fired


Per the ethical role of the interpreter, language service professionals – interpreters and translators – are not allowed to make any comments regarding the interpreted information unless it is life threatening. For example, if an interpreter is walking out of a medical exam room and the patient she is interpreting for murmurs “I’m going to kill myself!” the interpreter’s ethical responsibility is to notify the medical professional that she is interpreting for. Period. But the line is not always so black and white, and many interpreters are filled with ethical decisions when situations fall into the gray zone.

What about the role of a full-time interpreter that witnesses unfair treatment? Recently a full-time interpreter was released from his full-time position after presenting various formal complaints regarding the treatment of the workers he was hired to interpret for. The EEOC has taken up the case of an interpreter hired to interpret for Haitian workers at a Lumber Bridge chicken farm in Florida that was let go from his position a few days after presenting yet another complaint regarding mistreatment towards the farm workers.

The interpreter claims that he witnessed unfair treatment ranging from not allowing the Haitian workers bathroom breaks to witnessing Haitian workers being pelted with chicken parts. He states in the EEOC complaint that after presenting several complaints regarding the workers mistreatment, he was let go from his position.

Interpreters are faced with ethical decisions all of the time. We know that our role is to be the bridge of communication between the limited-English speaker and the English-speaking provider. That is clear. But what are we to do when we witness mistreatment? Are we to keep quiet, or is it our ethical role to say something?

For years interpreters have been discussing ethical dilemmas. They have always existed, and are not going away any time soon. The recent situation with the full-time interpreter that was fired after alleged performance issues brings to light again the role of the interpreter.

And the question remains: is the ethical obligation different for a full-time interpreter?

Does he or she have the right to present formal complaints regarding the limited-English speaker that he/she is interpreting for?

What do you think?

Some information provided by Business Management