New York Freelance Law to Benefit 500,000 Workers

"Freelancers aren't free," Mayor Bill de Blasio said May 15. "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."

The Freelance Isn't Free Act, billed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as the nation's first law of its kind, is now in effect. The law gives freelance workers the legal right to written contracts, timely payment, and freedom from retaliation; they can file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs' Office of Labor Policy & Standards, which will provide court navigation services to freelance workers pursuing their claims in court.

The department marked the new law's being in effect with a "Day of Action" to educate the public, launched a social media campaign, and co-hosted a launch event with Freelancers Union at LMHQ, a collaborative workspace in Manhattan.

The city estimates there are 500,000 freelance workers who will benefit from the law, based on a 2013 study of New Yorkers who received 1099-MISC tax forms (a common income tax form for individuals operating as contingent "freelance" workers).

"Freelancers aren't free," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "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 defined as 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 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.

The department's 15-day social media campaign called #FacesofFreelancers highlights the city's freelancers and the new rights available to them. Hiring parties and workers can visit nyc.gov/dca or call 311 and ask for "Freelance Workers" for more information about the new law.

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