Gig workers in NYC have had reason to rejoice this week. The Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which protects freelancer workers from wage theft by imposing penalties on businesses that delay or deny payment to their contract workers, was passed by the New York City Council in a unanimous vote last Thursday. The first wage protection act for freelance workers in the country, the act is expected to be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Under the provisions of the bill, employers will have a 30 day window after a freelancer renders services (or after an agreed-upon date) to make payment in full. They will also be required to provide a written contract to freelancers working on projects for which they will be paid $800 or more.
Freelancers who bring successful litigation against employers in breach of the law will be entitled to double damages as well as attorneys’ fees. Employers will also be prohibited from retaliating against freelancers who seek to enforce their labor rights.
The bill also establishes a formal mechanism for the director of the Department of Consumer Affairs to enforce the labor rights of freelancers who are stiffed by employers.
Photo by monktea via flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND)
This holiday season, New Yorkers living in the gig economy were given reason for optimism: the NY City Council introduced a bill proposing a set of rights for freelance workers. Dubbed “Freelance Isn’t Free Act,” and introduced by Council Member Brad Lander, this act would give freelance workers access to “protections now enjoyed by regular employees.”
Lydia DePillis, writing for the Washington Post, explains that the bill “would require all employers to put contracts in writing, impose civil and criminal penalties for taking longer than 30 days to deliver payments, and award double damages plus attorneys fees to contractors who’ve been stiffed.”
She continues, explaining that members of the independent economy have “been getting more vocal in recent years.”
Lander got the idea for the bill from the Freelancer’s Union, which now claims 280,000 members (joining is free; the 20-year-old organization funds itself through a for-profit arm that provides insurance benefits). In a survey, 70 percent of members said they lost some money on account of delinquent clients.
“It’s almost become something that people view as the price of doing business, just accepting that they won’t get paid,” says Sara Horowitz, the Freelancers Union’s founder and director. “It’s really crazy, because it’s a lot of money, and it’s really bad practice for companies to think they can do this.” Continue reading NYC Council Introduces “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act