LA Courts

CFI pursuing solutions to staffing, expansion and time off issues

LOS ANGELES  (February 23, 2016) _ CFI bargaining committee members, stewards and officers met with LA Superior Court management recently to continue discussing the impacts of civil expansion, county-wide staffing decisions, and the general squeeze that LA interpreters are experiencing due to changes implemented by the court over the past year and a half.

Court management acknowledged the issues CFI raised are serious and said the court is committed to supporting employees and working on these issues. The Union will continue documenting examples of the problems and will pursue solutions in our upcoming meetings.

The top issues on the Union’s agenda during the Thursday meeting:

•  the pervasive problem interpreters are having getting time off requests granted in a reasonable and timely way; 

•  problems with the way C and F assignments are being made and failure to correctly apply seniority; and

•  the way inadequate staffing is impacting language access and best practices.

Information collected from members shows that interpreters are being denied time off due to “court needs,” yet when interpreters are off work they are frequently not replaced with A, C or F status floaters, or independent contractors, who are available to work. Meanwhile, wait times for interpreters at court locations are a problem that regularly result in cases going forward without interpreters. 

Based on dozens of complaints from members, the Union described the situation with requests for time off (RTO) as unreasonable and harmful to the interests of the court, our members, and the public. Interpreters with plenty of accruals are experiencing delays in approvals of vacation time, partial approvals (e.g. three non-consecutive days in a week requested), last minute approvals and, more frequently, automatic denials or wait listing even when requesting time off well in advance, among other problems. The Union pointed out that providing earned benefits to court employees is a court need and contractual obligation, and that the process needs adjustment when the court cannot meet that need. 

The Union also began a discussion with management about how inadequate staffing affects language access and best practices, such as team interpreting and providing separate interpreters for opposing parties. CFI spokesperson Mary Lou Aranguren pointed out that language access is not meaningful if interpreters are waived, or attorneys appear 977 because wait times for interpreters are too long, or conditions don’t allow for best practices that ensure LEP court users' rights are protected. 

All of these issues are connected, and CFI urges interpreters to remember that full time, part time, F status and independent interpreters all have a mutual interest in seeing these issues resolved, and in having the court respect best practices and our contract. The union proposed adjustments and changes that are needed to increase the number of interpreters available on a daily basis to meet court needs countywide, to allow for time off that A and C status interpreters have earned, and to ensure that language access expansion is meaningful and our services are available in a timely way. 

At a separate meeting on Friday the issue of priority for afternoon assignments was resolved. The court has agreed to return to its past practice, in accordance with the MOU, of assigning C and F employees by seniority for afternoon assignments. The court has not yet said when the change will take effect. A more detailed report on this issue will sent to affected interpreters.

Management also wanted to discuss changing mileage, RTO and DAL requests to electronic format. The Union agreed to the proposal to change mileage claim procedures to an electronic online format and interpreters will receive information on this process soon, with implementation to begin by March 1, according to Language Access Services management. No special trainings will be required and we expect the changeover to be straight forward. Mileage claims will be on MARS (must be completed on court computers). The Court withdrew its proposal to change the process for RTO requests pending further discussions, and the Union said further discussions are needed on the proposal to have interpreters submit DAL’s electronically because of the significant impact this would have and numerous concerns with this change.



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