Signing a company document

I am an Assistant Manager in a company heavily influenced by the Japanese culture. All of our procedures and policies are in English, as well as a translation in Japanese right below it. Our President requires us to sign these policies/procedures as you would have any company do. My question: What are the legal ramifications of signing these documents, when clearly, I do not understand what is written in Japanese? There must be an implied law that protects a person in a situation like this. For example, the company has a no-smoking policy. Signed by 4 different people

Asked 6 months ago in Listowel, Ontario
Categories: Contracts  Human Rights  Corporate/Commercial  Business Law  Labour & Employment  Administrative  General Legal Questions

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Marc Z. Goldgrub

Answer by Marc Z. Goldgrub

VerifiedOntario lawyer

So what you're concerned about is whether the Japanese translation accurately reflects the English policies you're signing onto, correct?

In the event they do not, I think your instincts are probably right. The "implied law" you're referring to is the common law applicable to contracts in the jurisdiction. If someone receives a contract with provisions in English, as well as what they understand to be a Japanese translation of those same provisions, it's difficult to imagine a court concluding that the person signing should be bound to provisions that they did not understand, and were made to understand were translations of the provisions they did understand. Particularly in this case, being in Ontario, Canada, where the official languages are English and French. 

Since these are policies and procedures though, you would think that if they want employees to act accordingly, they would ensure everything is in a language employees understand, especially when that's one of the official languages of the jurisdiction. If someone were fired for not adhering to a policy or procedure in this case because it was not actually translated, or not translated accurately, one would potentially have a claim for wrongful dismissal. 

All that being said, does the policy explicitly say that the Japanese provisions are a direct translation? If not, you may want to sign with a little notation that you're signing with the understanding that those Japanese provisions you do not understand are accurate translations of the English ones that you do. 

Posted 6 months ago

Marc Z. Goldgrub, J.D., LL.M. | Lawyer at Green Economy Law Professional Corporation
Licensed to Practice Law in Ontario and New York State
647-725-4308 |

Please note that this is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice to you. Legal advice pertaining to your particular situation can only be provided by a lawyer who has met with you to obtain all pertinent background information necessary to give you a formal legal opinion. For formal legal advice, hire a lawyer (many give a free first consultation). Contact Marc Z. Goldgrub, or search the Lawyer Directory.

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