What You Need to Know About the Freelancer Bill in NYC

One of the trends in contract and freelance work is protecting worker rights, similar to those extended to formal employees.  Part of the problem is that freelancers may not see themselves as an independent business, and are simply taking contract work since it is widely available.  But, the businesses that hire them have at times not extended typical worker rights, or sought to dismiss their claims for payment and fair treatment.

This has come to the attention of lawmakers in some regions, as companies like Uber and Lyft have received negative publicity about how they treat their independent contractor workforce.  Now, New York City has responded with a new law designed to help you as a contractor in that city.

“Freelance Isn’t Free” Act

If you are working as a freelancer or independent contractor in New York City, then you will want to be aware of this new law effective May 15, 2017, that increases your worker protections when contracting with clients.

The new bill gives freelancers the rights to:
  1. a written contract for projects exceeding $800
  2. timely and full payment within 30 days of completion, and
  3. protection from retaliation.

The name of the Act underscores its primary purpose: to prevent businesses from taking advantage of freelancers in a way that is not possible with formal employees.  Every contractor has had issues with payment at some point, or endless delays and requests for additional work before payment, and this Act will go a long way to preventing those practices.

Legislation’s Impact

It is hard to diminish the effect of this new law, considering that The new legislation is expected to have a large impact in NYC, where around 38% of workers are freelancers.” (link is external)

The Freelancer Union in NYC was instrumental in lobbying for this bill, and it is now a law that all businesses that hire freelancers must heed, or pay steep penalties.

What’s the Freelancer Bill About?

Essentially, this new Act gives freelancers in New York City additional rights and remedies for non-payment, late payments and retaliation for making any complaints.  Previously, most freelancers had to pursue these claims without any real statutory rights, except as a sole proprietor against another business.

Under this new bill, the right to timely payment is emphasized, along with penalties for any violations of freelancer rights, including:

  • Statutory Damages
  • Double Damages
  • Injunctive Relief
  • Reimbursement of Attorney’s Fees

These remedies will give freelancers increased ability to push back against unfair treatment, non-payment or other practices that a business may use to diminish or undermine the status of an independent contractor.

Many businesses benefit when they hire you as a freelancer since they don’t pay benefits or employment taxes and may even offer a lower rate than a formal employee.  But at least now they have to fulfil their timely payment obligations, and if not then you do have recourse under the new Act.  We can expect other cities and states to begin looking at similar legislation, as the ‘gig’ economy expands.

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