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The “gig economy” is growing by leaps and bounds, but the legal framework of protections for those workers has not kept pace. New York City is at the forefront of establishing smart and fair new rules for this expanding sector of the economy.

Over 1 million New Yorkers now work as freelancers or independent contractors. Unfortunately, most of them—over 70 percent according to a survey by Freelancers Union—have been cheated out of payments that they’ve earned. These freelancers are stiffed an average of $6,390 every year, making it very difficult to pay their bills, support their families or make ends meet.

Our current legal framework provides little meaningful recourse. Freelancers can sue their hiring parties for breach of contract, but they are at an enormous disadvantage. Often the claims are relatively small, and legal fees could exceed what they are owed. In many cases, there is no written contract. Too often, hiring parties take advantage of the imbalance, and pressure freelancers to accept far less than they are owed, pay many months late, or fail to pay entirely. Unlike traditional “W-2″ employees, freelancers lack meaningful legal protection against wage theft.

Over the past year, the New York City Council crafted, introduced, took hours of public testimony from diverse stakeholders on, debated, worked with the Law Department, amended, and unanimously passed a bill that will work effectively to solve this problem.

As reported by the New York Law Journal, Intro 1017-C (a.k.a. the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act”) is the first law in the country to provide protections against non-payment for freelancers and independent contractors (NYLJ, Oct. 31).

The bill will require that hiring parties enter into written contracts, spelling out the basic terms (at least). After the work is complete, payment is due in 30 days by default, though the parties can modify this requirement by contract to provide additional specificity about what constitutes completion of work or to otherwise suit their needs. Where hiring parties fail to pay on time and in full, freelancers will be eligible for double damages and attorneys’ fees, making it possible for them to prevail in court, but also providing meaningful incentive for on-time payment. In addition to having a new private right of action, freelancers can bring complaints about non-payment to the Department of Consumer Affairs, which will issue a Notice of Complaint to hiring parties to help encourage payment before court action, and help freelancers exercise their rights under the law.

As a result of hours of public testimony, meetings with diverse stakeholders over months, and three rounds of thoughtful amendments, we adopted a bill that passed unanimously (i.e. the three City Council Republicans support the new law), and that has support not only from freelancers, but also the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, New York Tech Meetup, and many other organizations.

In a Law Journal Perspective article, “Defects in NYC’s Freelance Bill” (NLYJ, Nov. 3), three management-side employment attorneys—who did not bother to weigh in during the extensive legislative process—completely mischaracterize the bill. The piece, by Richard J. Reibstein, Janet B. Barsky and Jessica X. Rothenberg, is rife with errors.

The authors allege that the law is vague on who is covered, but it is actually quite clear. The bill clearly defines a freelance worker as any natural person or organization composed of no more than one natural person. This means that only one-person shops, that do not employ any other workers, whether incorporated or not, are covered by the law’s protections.

Just as with the long-standing New York City Human Rights Law, and all other local laws, the issue of jurisdiction is a matter of civil procedure that will have to be established in court. Where the hiring party, the freelancer, the work, and the alleged violation are all in New York City, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act will quite clearly apply. When elements of the contracting process arise or are located elsewhere, a judge will have to evaluate the facts in the case (of course, I hope over time that other jurisdictions will follow suit with similar legislation, so these protections are provided everywhere).

Contrary to the authors’ allegation, our law is clear that the contract obligation could be satisfied in many forms. State law establishes the background rules for what constitutes a contract. Intro 1017-C simply sets minimum requirements as part of the city’s own local cause of action for what must be specified in writing—the parties, their addresses, a description of the work, the price, and the date payment is due. As the council’s official “committee report” accompanying the bill makes clear: “For example, an email, a letter, an advertisement or a text message, or some combination of those, that satisfy the state-law requirements for a contract and contain the information required by Proposed Int. No. 1017 C would satisfy the requirement to reduce the contract to a writing.”

If hiring parties want to require an invoice, or other notice that work is complete, they are completely free to include that requirement in the contract. In our year of collecting testimony, however, we did not hear one example of a dispute that revolved around the hiring party’s honest lack of knowledge that the work had been completed.

Perhaps the article’s silliest error is its misinterpretation of the bill’s impact on legitimate contract disputes. They write that damages and remedies could be awarded “even if there was a good faith dispute over whether payment was due.” However, if the contract is legitimately in dispute (i.e. a good faith claim that services were not rendered to the hiring party’s satisfaction), then that will have to be litigated before a judge. If services are found by a judge to be incomplete or unsatisfactory, then there would, of course, be no non-payment claim for which to award damages.

Local laws like this one allow municipalities the flexibility to test innovative laws for protecting the growing ranks of workers in the new “gig economy.” Since this legislation is the first of its kind, we wrote into the law an opportunity for a “check-in,” one year from the enactment date, in which the Department of Consumer Affairs will report the results of its complaint procedure, and make recommendations for any legislative changes.

We will be glad to review constructive feedback from Reibstein, Barsky and Rothenberg then, just as we would have been if they had reached out us after the bill was introduced, after it was amended, at our public hearing, after our public hearing, or in the many months since then.

At that point, we look forward to another round of conversations with key stakeholders, including attorneys for hiring parties, to consider potential changes to make sure that this innovative law works as intended.

For now, we look forward to Mayor de Blasio signing the bill into law, and to working with the Department of Consumer Affairs as they implement it—to make sure workers get paid, on-time and in full, for the work they have done.

The “gig economy” is growing by leaps and bounds, but the legal framework of protections for those workers has not kept pace. New York City is at the forefront of establishing smart and fair new rules for this expanding sector of the economy.

Over 1 million New Yorkers now work as freelancers or independent contractors. Unfortunately, most of them—over 70 percent according to a survey by Freelancers Union—have been cheated out of payments that they’ve earned. These freelancers are stiffed an average of $6,390 every year, making it very difficult to pay their bills, support their families or make ends meet.

Our current legal framework provides little meaningful recourse. Freelancers can sue their hiring parties for breach of contract, but they are at an enormous disadvantage. Often the claims are relatively small, and legal fees could exceed what they are owed. In many cases, there is no written contract. Too often, hiring parties take advantage of the imbalance, and pressure freelancers to accept far less than they are owed, pay many months late, or fail to pay entirely. Unlike traditional “W-2″ employees, freelancers lack meaningful legal protection against wage theft.

Over the past year, the New York City Council crafted, introduced, took hours of public testimony from diverse stakeholders on, debated, worked with the Law Department, amended, and unanimously passed a bill that will work effectively to solve this problem.

As reported by the New York Law Journal, Intro 1017-C (a.k.a. the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act”) is the first law in the country to provide protections against non-payment for freelancers and independent contractors (NYLJ, Oct. 31).

The bill will require that hiring parties enter into written contracts, spelling out the basic terms (at least). After the work is complete, payment is due in 30 days by default, though the parties can modify this requirement by contract to provide additional specificity about what constitutes completion of work or to otherwise suit their needs. Where hiring parties fail to pay on time and in full, freelancers will be eligible for double damages and attorneys’ fees, making it possible for them to prevail in court, but also providing meaningful incentive for on-time payment. In addition to having a new private right of action, freelancers can bring complaints about non-payment to the Department of Consumer Affairs, which will issue a Notice of Complaint to hiring parties to help encourage payment before court action, and help freelancers exercise their rights under the law.

As a result of hours of public testimony, meetings with diverse stakeholders over months, and three rounds of thoughtful amendments, we adopted a bill that passed unanimously (i.e. the three City Council Republicans support the new law), and that has support not only from freelancers, but also the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, New York Tech Meetup, and many other organizations.

In a Law Journal Perspective article, “Defects in NYC’s Freelance Bill” (NLYJ, Nov. 3), three management-side employment attorneys—who did not bother to weigh in during the extensive legislative process—completely mischaracterize the bill. The piece, by Richard J. Reibstein, Janet B. Barsky and Jessica X. Rothenberg, is rife with errors.

The authors allege that the law is vague on who is covered, but it is actually quite clear. The bill clearly defines a freelance worker as any natural person or organization composed of no more than one natural person. This means that only one-person shops, that do not employ any other workers, whether incorporated or not, are covered by the law’s protections.

Just as with the long-standing New York City Human Rights Law, and all other local laws, the issue of jurisdiction is a matter of civil procedure that will have to be established in court. Where the hiring party, the freelancer, the work, and the alleged violation are all in New York City, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act will quite clearly apply. When elements of the contracting process arise or are located elsewhere, a judge will have to evaluate the facts in the case (of course, I hope over time that other jurisdictions will follow suit with similar legislation, so these protections are provided everywhere).

Contrary to the authors’ allegation, our law is clear that the contract obligation could be satisfied in many forms. State law establishes the background rules for what constitutes a contract. Intro 1017-C simply sets minimum requirements as part of the city’s own local cause of action for what must be specified in writing—the parties, their addresses, a description of the work, the price, and the date payment is due. As the council’s official “committee report” accompanying the bill makes clear: “For example, an email, a letter, an advertisement or a text message, or some combination of those, that satisfy the state-law requirements for a contract and contain the information required by Proposed Int. No. 1017 C would satisfy the requirement to reduce the contract to a writing.”

If hiring parties want to require an invoice, or other notice that work is complete, they are completely free to include that requirement in the contract. In our year of collecting testimony, however, we did not hear one example of a dispute that revolved around the hiring party’s honest lack of knowledge that the work had been completed.

Perhaps the article’s silliest error is its misinterpretation of the bill’s impact on legitimate contract disputes. They write that damages and remedies could be awarded “even if there was a good faith dispute over whether payment was due.” However, if the contract is legitimately in dispute (i.e. a good faith claim that services were not rendered to the hiring party’s satisfaction), then that will have to be litigated before a judge. If services are found by a judge to be incomplete or unsatisfactory, then there would, of course, be no non-payment claim for which to award damages.

Local laws like this one allow municipalities the flexibility to test innovative laws for protecting the growing ranks of workers in the new “gig economy.” Since this legislation is the first of its kind, we wrote into the law an opportunity for a “check-in,” one year from the enactment date, in which the Department of Consumer Affairs will report the results of its complaint procedure, and make recommendations for any legislative changes.

We will be glad to review constructive feedback from Reibstein, Barsky and Rothenberg then, just as we would have been if they had reached out us after the bill was introduced, after it was amended, at our public hearing, after our public hearing, or in the many months since then.

At that point, we look forward to another round of conversations with key stakeholders, including attorneys for hiring parties, to consider potential changes to make sure that this innovative law works as intended.

For now, we look forward to Mayor de Blasio signing the bill into law, and to working with the Department of Consumer Affairs as they implement it—to make sure workers get paid, on-time and in full, for the work they have done.