Lexitas climbs to #712 on the list of the fastest-growing 5,000 companies in the U.S.

Inc. magazine revealed that, thanks to an impressive three-year growth rate of 698 percent, Lexitas has reached the rank of No. 712 on the 37th annual Inc. 5000, a list of the fastest-growing companies in the United States.

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Report from the FCC’s Disability Advisory Committee meeting

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) met on Oct. 3 for the last meeting of their second term. This committee comprises organizations in the telecommunications and accessibility realms and provides recommendations on accessibility regulations for the full commission. NCRA has participated for many years in this committee as subcommittee members of the Video Programming subcommittee, which occasionally crafts recommendations on captioning regulations and best practices for the full committee to consider. In attendance at this meeting were NCRA President Sue Terry, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Board Member Steve Clark, CRC; members Kelly Linkowski, RPR, CRR, CRC, CPE, and Darlene Parker, FAPR, RPR; and NCRA’s Government Relations Manager Matthew Barusch. The meeting was captioned by a live captioner, with captions shown in the room and streamed on the Web, along with StreamText captions.

Much of the agenda for this meeting was dedicated to consideration and approval of recommendations from other subcommittees, as well as a robust discussion on methods to increase consumer engagement. However, a portion of the meeting was dedicated to a review of possible topics of consideration for the DAC’s next term. Included on this list is the issue of automatic speech recognition, including the possible development of technology-neutral captioning quality metrics. As stated by Will Schell, Advising Attorney for the FCC’s Disability Rights Office, the recommendation is for the committee to “explore opportunities and challenges of developing technology-neutral metrics for closed captioning quality, with an eye toward facilitating objective comparisons between different captioning technologies, including automatic speech recognition, in terms of their ability to yield accuracy, completeness, synchronicity, and placement.”

Barusch gave a short speech towards the end of the meeting, reaffirming NCRA’s interest in this topic and commitment to assisting in the development of such metrics.

“Given the rise of ASR usage, especially in the broadcast captioning industry, this topic is particularly important for the DAC to consider,” Barusch said. “We have a number of concerns that this technology is not ready or able to meet the standards set by the FCC in 2014 and feel that it is being implemented to the detriment of consumers.”

Visit the FCC’s Disability Advisory Committee page for more information.

Why you should always hire a stenographic court reporter for your legal proceedings

iCrowdNewswire posted a press release on Sept. 27 issued by Christine Phipps, RPR, CEO of Phipps Reporting in West Palm Beach, Fla., that covers the differences between stenographic court reporters and recorders. It also explains the benefits of hiring a live court reporter to cover legal proceedings.

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Stenograph’s 80 years in business gets attention in Chicago newspaper

The Daily Herald posted a feature article on Sept. 17 about Stenograph, based in Chicago, Ill., and the company’s dominant presence in the shorthand industry. The article notes that the firm, which is a NCRA Corporate Sponsor, supports the NCRA A to Z™ Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program.

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Statement from the NCRA CEO: Sinclair Broadcast Group

By Marcia Ferranto

NCRA exists to represent, protect, and advocate for the stenographic professions of court reporting and captioning. Here at NCRA, everything we do, everything we fight for, and the very reason we fight are founded by the core belief that stenography is the most effective and efficient means of capturing the spoken word, the best way of providing speech-to-text services in any forum, and the only way to satisfy the needs and protect the integrity of the institutions and consumers who rely on it. This belief has been borne out by the facts time and time again: Stenographic court reporting and captioning is faster, more accurate, and more dependable than artificial intelligence-based alternatives and other alternatives solely based on technology, and, in addition, it is largely preferred by the consumers of these services. Stenographic court reporting is the backbone of the American court system, and stenographic captioning is an invaluable accessibility service to people who are deaf or who have hearing loss.

Recently, Sinclair Broadcast Group has made public their decision to abandon the use of stenographic captions in favor of the cost-cutting measure of implementing the automatic speech recognition (ASR) platform using IBM Watson. This decision is likely to impact hundreds of local news stations and affect millions of captioning consumers and providers. In a message to the public, IBM claims that Watson makes live programming “more accessible to local viewers, including the Deaf community, senior citizens, and anyone experiencing hearing loss.” We strongly disagree with the decision to abandon the human element of captioning in favor of automation, which invariably produces subpar captioning and will negatively affect accessibility to local news for millions of Americans.

NCRA’s Government Relations Department and Captioning Regulatory Policy Committee, our own member-formed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) watchdog, are working hard to address this issue, to register our concerns with the FCC, and to implore them to uphold important captioning quality standards in light of this new transition to ASR captioning.

But the FCC needs to hear from you, too!

  1. Complain online here about subpar captions.
  2. Sign our petition and tell Sinclair you want live captioners.
  3. If you have evidence of captioning failures, photos or videos of terrible captioning, we want to see it. You can send them to Matt Barusch, NCRA’s Government Relations Manager.

With your help, together we can ensure that live programming utilizes the best captioning that can be offered: Captioning by a live, trained, and certified captioner.

Marcia Ferranto is CEO and Executive Director of the National Court Reporters Association. 

O’Brien & Levine earns top ratings for second consecutive year

O’Brien & Levine was voted the #1 best court reporting and video deposition company for the second consecutive year by readers of the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

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California ruling on independent contractor v. employee status has implications for court reporters and firms

By Matthew Barusch

Recently, the California Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court that will make it more difficult for employers to classify workers as independent contractors. This case established an “ABC test” for employers, creating a new standard in California that must be successfully applied for a worker to be classified as an independent contractor. Under the test, a worker is only properly considered an independent contractor if:

(A) They are “free from the control and direction” of the company that hired them when they perform their work.

(B) The work they perform falls “outside the usual course” of the hiring company’s business.

(C) They have their own independent business or trade beyond the job for which they were hired.

This ruling was opposed by the California business community, which is now lobbying the California Legislature to suspend the court ruling and address this issue. Organized labor claims this as a win for workers in an economic environment not friendly to labor. Regardless of the arguments of proponent and opponents of this ruling, it has established completely new legal precedent in California and could take years of litigation to sort through all the implications for many California workers, including professional court reporters and the firms that work with them.

A NATIONAL ISSUE

While this decision sent shock waves throughout California, the ABC test is not a new phenomenon in the states. New Jersey is another state that has instituted an ABC test to determine employment status. In 2010, New Jersey passed a law that exempted court reporters from being classified as employees. But in the wake of the debate around misclassification, this law is being challenged. As a result, freelance firms in the state of New Jersey are being targeted with audits in order to change employment status of court reporters. In May 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order to create a task force to investigate employers who used independent contractors on the grounds that misclassification allows employers to avoid paying for employees’ taxes and benefits.

This issue is clearly picking up steam in the states. The ruling in the Dynamex case further establishes a precedent in the form of the ABC test that could conceivably be adopted by states examining misclassification.

IMPLICATIONS FOR REPORTERS AND FIRMS

So what would happen if you, as an independent contractor, were eventually to be reclassified as an employee of your firm? How would your compensation change? And why would anyone try to do that?

As the Dynamex case is the most recent example of this issue being addressed in the states, let’s use this as an example. Freelance reporters and court reporting firms in California must now examine their business relationships with each other and assess whether or not they meet the criteria set out by the ABC test. Court reporting firms and freelancers may find themselves having less flexibility in deciding who, when, and even where they want to work. This ruling may even create implications for reporters who contract with the California courts, as some of them have moved to changed their status to work on an as-necessary basis.

Another important issue that arises out of this debate is how or whether court reporters will be compensated for their transcripts. Transcripts take time to produce and can be a significant portion of a freelancer’s income. This has been seen as one of the motivating factors of opposition behind reclassification. Transcript income can be dubbed as ‘outside income’ by court administration; and because of their classification as independent contractors, court reporters are exempt from policies that prevent employees from doing work for ‘outside income’ during office hours. By being reclassified as an employee, freelancers may be prevented from working on transcripts during office hours, which, of course, is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process.

While no federal policy currently addresses this issue for freelancers, federal legislation addresses this issue for official court reporters as employees of the federal government. In 1995, Congress passed exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) called the Court Reporter Fair Labor Amendments Act that created an exemption from FLSA requirements for official court reporters for time spent on transcript preparation. This law was meant to allow officials to keep their transcript income by giving up overtime if those extra hours were used on transcript preparation. Unfortunately, this law does not govern the freelance sector. The language was very specific and pertained only to official court reporters. However, some states continue to argue that misclassification indeed violates federal law. In May 2018, the same month New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy created his task force, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal joined 11 other state Attorneys General in a legal brief urging the National Labor Relations Board to rule that misclassification violates federal labor laws.

For now, it is unclear how this will play out in the federal or state governments. Misclassification can change the way that reporters are compensated for their work, which can threaten a reporter’s livelihood. At the end of the day, it should be up to you, the court reporter, and the firms you do business with as to which situation best suits your need. The National Court Reporters Association is committed to supporting our members’ freedom to decide what business relationship they wish to pursue, based on their own assessment of what is most suitable for their situation. Efforts to address misclassification may be well-intentioned but may have unintended consequences for the court reporting profession that could see court reporters working less and being paid less for their work.

Matthew Barusch is NCRA’s Manager of State Government Relations. He can be reached at  mbarusch@ncra.org.

This material is intended  for general information purposes only and should not be considered as if it were legal advice.

Lexitas included in Inc. magazine’s Top 5000

Lexitas, a legal services firm based in Houston, Texas, and an NCRA Corporate Partner, was ranked 712 in Inc. magazine’s 5,000 fastest growing companies in America. It is the fourth consecutive time the company has been included in the magazine’s top 5000 list. In 2017, the company was ranked 1,073 on the list.

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Bailey & Associates Court Reporters add new south Florida locations

Bailey & Associates Court Reporters announced in a press release issued Aug. 22 that the firm is adding new locations throughout south Florida for depositions. The new locations include Miami, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and more.

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Phipps Reporting included in Inc. magazine’s Top 5000 for fifth year

Phipps Reporting, based in West Palm Beach, FL, and owned by NCRA Vice President Christine Phipps, RPR, is ranked 4,024 in Inc. magazine’s 5,000 fastest growing companies in America for the fifth consecutive year.

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