Workers' Compensation

California: Interpreter Fees: Filing a Petition for Costs Deemed Unnecessary in Certain Situations

The practice of ordering interpreter fees at the WCAB at the time of hearing is becoming more common. These recent panel decisions address the issue of whether the practice is compliant with the statutory and regulatory process.

In Alcaide Sierra v. Mark Bowers Drywall, the WCAB held that an order issued by the WCJ at the 1/22/2018 status conference instructing the defendant to pay a $165.00 fee for one-half day of interpreting services provided to the applicant at a conference by a Spanish language interpreter did not violate 8 Cal. Code Reg. § 10451.3(e), which provides that a petition for costs shall not be filed or served until at least 60 days after written demand for costs has been served on the defendant. Here, the interpreting services were provided at the WCAB without objection from the defendant, and the WCJ had the opportunity to assess the need for interpreting services, the qualifications of the interpreter, the services rendered and the rate requested. The WCAB concluded that absent a legitimate dispute regarding the interpreting services provided, the defendant was liable for the interpreting costs pursuant to Labor Code § 5710(b)(5) and 8 Cal. Code Reg. § 9795.3(a)(5) and should pay the cost without requiring the interpreter to file a petition for costs. The WCAB likewise found that the WCJ’s order did not violate Labor Code § 5313, when the order itself contained facts the WCJ relied upon in that it stated that the applicant required and requested use of an interpreter and that the requested fee for the interpreter’s appearance at WCAB was $165.00, and the interpreter signed the order itself, declaring under penalty of perjury that she performed services for which costs were awarded.

See also Fletes v. Siris Abatement, 2017 Cal. Wrk. Comp. PD LEXIS 361. Here, the WCAB, affirming the WCJ’s order directing the defendant to pay the fees of a Spanish-language interpreter in the amount of $165.00 for a half-day court appearance, found that the WCJ was justified in awarding fees pursuant to Labor Code § 5811 notwithstanding that the interpreter did not send a bill for services or file a petition for costs. The defendant admitted in court that there was no indication the interpreting services were not needed. The WCAB reasoned that there is no statutory or regulatory requirement that the interpreter send a bill or file a petition for costs, as the interpreter can file a lien or the parties can stipulate to payment without a bill or a petition for costs, that interpreting 8 Cal. Code Reg. § 9795.4(a) and 8 Cal. Code Reg. § 10451.3 to create a requirement to send a bill and file a petition for costs (absent payment or stipulation to pay) for interpreter services provided at a court hearing goes beyond the legislative intent in enacting Labor Code § 5811 and is inconsistent with the WCAB’s broad discretion under Labor Code § 5811(a) to award costs, and that requiring a bill to be sent or a petition for costs to be filed even in cases where there is no dispute regarding the necessity of services provided would create unnecessary judicial inefficiency.

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