New Law Protects NY Freelancers

NEW YORK —Mayor Bill de Blasio has introduced the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, the first law of its kind in the country, which is now in effect.

The Law gives freelance workers the legal right to written contracts, timely payment, and freedom from retaliation. Under the Law, freelance workers can now file a complaint with DCA’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards, which will also provide court navigation services to freelance workers pursuing their claims in court and survey freelance workers about their experiences pursuing their claims under the Law in court.

There are an estimated 500,000 freelance workers that will benefit from this legislation, based on a 2013 study by DOF of New Yorkers receiving 1099-MISC tax forms (a common income tax form for individuals operating as contingent “freelance” workers).

“Freelancers aren’t free,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It’s now the law in New York City that they be paid on time, have the written contracts they deserve and have the tools to defend their rights.”

“This Law is an important step toward securing financial stability for the many freelance workers who bring their talents to companies but then struggle to make ends meet because of unpaid wages and broken promises,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “By requiring hiring parties to issue written contracts, we can better ensure that workers are paid on time and in full. DCA’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards is committed to working on behalf of all freelancers to create a more secure workforce for today’s evolving economy.”

A freelance worker is any individual hired or retained as an independent contractor by a hiring party to provide services for compensation. The Law protects freelance workers against non-payment by:

  • Requiring contracts between freelance workers and hiring parties that are worth $800 or more to be in writing, including agreements that total $800 in any 120-day period.
  • Requiring hiring parties to pay freelance workers on or before the date in the contract, or if the contract doesn’t specify a date, within 30 days after the work is completed.
  • Protecting freelance workers against retaliation for asserting their rights under the Law.
  • Providing freelance workers the right to file a complaint with OLPS. Hiring parties must respond to the complaint in writing within 20 days. If a hiring party does not respond to a complaint within 20 days, the freelance worker receive a “rebuttable presumption” in their favor when they bring their complaint to court, which means the judge should presume the hiring party committed the violations.
  • Creating a Court Navigation Program within DCA, which offers freelance workers information about the law, the court process, sample court forms, court services, worker classification, and more.
  • Providing the right to sue in court to seek double the unpaid amount, damages for retaliation, damages for failing to enter into a written contract, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

“With on-third of the workforce freelancing, it’s time for us to build a new safety net that reflects the realities of how Americans are working,” said Sara Horowitz, Founder and Executive Director of Freelancers Union. “To achieve this, we must build new labor institutions and strategies for organizing workers and mobilizing for change. The Freelance Isn’t Free Act marks a turning point in developing real protections for the growing independent workforce.”