New York City Hall (Wiki)
The New York City Council has passed a first-of-its-kind bill in the United States intended to ensure companies promptly pay freelancers and other independent contractors for their work.
The Freelance Isn’t Free Act, Int.1017-2015, which passed unanimously, tackles the problem of unpaid fees that worker advocacy groups such as the Freelancers Union, which helped get the bill passed, see as a major issue troubling independent contractors and others in the so-called “gig economy.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the bill. The organization said it hopes to get similar legislation passed in other cities across the country.
In a statement on the Freelances Union’s website, the organization hailed the bill’s passage as a “landmark victory” and said:
“Today, 38 percent of workers in NYC [are] freelance and it’s about time our labor laws were updated to protect freelancers. With 55 million Americans freelancing across the country, we hope to replicate this legislation in other freelance-friendly cities across the nation.”
Sara HorowitzFreelancers Union
Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of the union said in an interview Thursday that she hopes the bill, which her group will work to replicate in other jurisdictions, will deter companies from shortchanging freelancers.
“Hopefully it should have a prophylactic effect of making sure that people just don’t do it,” she said.
The bill, introduced in December 2015 by Brooklyn City Councilman Brad Lander, requires all companies hiring freelancers for work valued at $800 or more to have written contracts itemizing services provided, the value of the services and the rate and method of compensation.
If there is no termination date on the contract, payment for a freelancer will be due no later than 30 days after services have been rendered. Freelancers would be able to bring complaints under the law through the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs or take the client company to small claims court.
It also contains an anti-retaliation clause to protect freelancers who file complaints from getting shut out of future work with a company.
The bill creates civil penalties of up to $25,000 for repeated violations, including statutory damages, injunctive relief and attorney fees. Individual causes of action would be adjudicated in state court.
Councilman Brad Landerbradlander.nyc
In welcoming its passage, Lander told the council that the bill would “provide strong protection” for those getting “stiffed and cheated out of money that they are owed.”
De Blasio’s office has expressed support for the measure. “As our economy continues to be shaped by 21st century technology and creative thinking, this administration, which worked closely with the City Council on this bill, supports laws that protect all New York workers,” Rosemary Boeglin, a City Hall spokeswoman, said in an email.
According to 2015 data from the Freelancers Union, there are about 54 million freelancers and contractors in the United States, and in a Freelancers Union survey of more than 5,000 of these workers, 71 percent said they have had trouble getting clients to pay them.
Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, which backed the law, said entrepreneurs and the creative class that populate his borough will benefit.
“I look at these freelancers as very, very small businesses,” he said. “Our job is to make sure that all businesses in Brooklyn—from mom and pops and freelancers to corporations—are treated correctly and are paid.”
But Thomas Wassel, who represents companies in labor matters as a partner at law firm Cullen and Dykman in Garden City, said he sees some potential issues for companies that use freelance workers in the law, including a lack of provisions to deal with situations where the freelancer “doesn’t do the work or does a poor job of the work and there’s a legitimate dispute about whether the work was completed or done to spec.”