Sign Language Interpreters & Proprietary Business Information

We talked in our blog Sign Language Interpreters and HIPAA about how business associates are covered entities under HIPAA.  If HIPAA information is protected, what protection is there for proprietary business information?

proprietary business informationCode of Professional Conduct (Ethics)

It is not uncommon for coworkers or management to include a sign language interpreter as a non-employee in business meetings.  Meetings sometimes disclose proprietary business information or private information related to the company.  Though any non-medical office will not have protection under HIPAA, they will have protection under the law regarding sign language interpreter’s Code of Professional Conduct.  In Missouri and Illinois, and potentially in other states with licensure, citizens may file a complaint against an interpreter’s license if for any reason they have violated their code of professional conduct. Any complaints that are filed are carefully investigated to ensure no wrong doing.

Protecting Your Business from Violations

Most state and federal agency contracts have clauses to protect against exposure of potentially harmful information.  This may include HIPAA protected information or business proprietary information.

Private businesses and non-profits should carefully select sign language interpreting firms.   Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Choose a reputable sign language interpreting firm, not a foreign language interpreter referral agency.
  2. Choose a reputable sign language interpreting firm verses an individual contractor. Contractors can be cheaper, but they are typically not insured, lack knowledge of standard operating procedures, and/or are unable to provide you a backup sign language interpreter or guidance in the event of your dissatisfaction.
  3. Some local areas have several sign language interpreting firms, so how do you choose? Look for reputable companies, and consider each one carefully.  Do not choose a sign language interpreting firm based on price alone.
  4. Choose a local firm. Local firms know the Deaf community and the sign language interpreters, and are better able to schedule an interpreter that best meets your needs. Firms outside the local area are unable to provide you the most accurate services, so their general purpose of providing the service is for profit and not for quality.


Sign language interpreters are necessary for equal access to communication under the ADA.  Their purpose is to provide a Deaf employee all of the information.  If you have any concerns, talk it over with your reputable sign language interpreting firm and let them guide you.

If you would like more information on selecting a firm, see our blogs: Hiring a Reputable Sign Language Interpreting CompanySign Language Interpreting Company vs. Independent Sign Language Interpreter, Hiring a Sign Language Interpreting Company vs. Foreign Language Company.

Additional resources:
Professional Sign Language Interpreting Agencies

How Practicing Sign Language Interpreters Protect Against Legal Liability

Photo credit:

MT & Associates | Sign Language Interpreting Practice BBB Business Review