In a landmark victory for the nation’s 55 million independent workers, the New York City Council passed the “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act – first-of-its-kind legislation that extends the social safety net and provides millions of NYC freelancers with unprecedented wage theft protections. Intro. 1017-C, supported by Freelancers Union and introduced by Council Member Brad Lander, will now provide NYC’s freelancers with equal protection from wage theft. It will also require any company who hires a freelance worker to execute a simple written contract, describing the work to be completed, the rate and method of payment, and the date when payment is due. Companies that refuse to pay, or try to force freelancers to wait months to get paid in full, will have to face penalties, including double damages, attorney’s fees, and civil penalties.
One out of every three workers today is independent. They’re graphic designers, painters, writers, programmers and more. But even as their ranks have continued to grow, they still have none of the same job protections and benefits as traditional 9-5 employees. For traditional workers, who receive a W2 as their tax document rather than a 1099, the State Department of Labor provides protections against wage theft, investigating complaints and enforcing damages. For new economy workers, however, until now there were only two options: sue, or walk away. The “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act aims to address this and provide recourse for stiffed independent workers. Full Release
WHAT PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS MEMBERS SAY:
“Today, New York City is becoming the first city in the nation to protect freelancers and independent contractors from getting stiffed,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “This means new protections for NYC’s 1.3 million freelancers – for people like Elizabeth McKenzie, a freelancer in film production who lived on bread and rolls, and worked in the dark because she couldn’t pay her utility bills after getting stiffed for $2,500 she had earned. Like Mauricio Niebla, part of a group of 40 writers and editors cheated out of a total of $400,000 by a national publishing company. Like Just Raymona, a pattern-maker from the Bronx, who paid the people she owed out of her savings when she was stiffed, but couldn’t pay her own rent or phone bill. The Freelance Isn’t Free Act will make sure all workers can get paid for their work, on-time and in full. Thank you to the Freelancer’s Union for their leadership, to Speaker Mark-Viverito, and to my Council colleagues for helping NYC lead the way in writing new rules for the economy, so all workers have the supports and protections they deserve.”
Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Progressive Caucus Co-Chair said, “With the City’s rising cost of living, many New Yorkers are turning to freelance work to supplement their incomes, and more than a million New Yorkers depend on freelance income for either some or all of their wages. We don’t tolerate wage theft in any industry, and we won’t tolerate it for freelance workers, either. The Freelance Isn’t Free Act gives these workers peace of mind in knowing they will be compensated for their time, and sends a message to employers that they cannot take advantage of workers just because they are freelancers.”
“Wage theft has no place in New York City. Introduction 1017-C is a big step toward ensuring the city’s 1.3 million freelancers are treated fairly and with respect,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Progressive Caucus Vice-chair. “Making it in the big city is already tough enough; aspiring writers, actors, and artists need the protection of this legislation.”
“Artists are vitally important to not only New York City’s economy, but our soul as well,” said Council Majority Leader and Cultural Affairs Chair Jimmy Van Bramer. “If we want our city to remain the cultural capital of the world, we must take steps to ensure artists get paid in full and on time. The common-sense policies in the Freelance Isn’t Free Act will help artists continue to thrive.”
“Freelancers deserve wage protections and employment fairness,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “Non-traditional employment relationships shouldn’t be an excuse to cheat workers or withhold wages. Requiring employment contracts, agreed rates and penalties for failure to pay will protect people who contribute so much to our economy and are among the most vulnerable workers.”
“Our city’s freelance workers deserve protections that prevent the wage theft and blatant abuse that is all too common,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “Routine nonpayment of work is more than an inconvenience—it is an injustice. Establishing common sense safeguards by requiring contracts between parties and mandating timely payments will make all New Yorkers better off.”
“Everyone deserves to get paid for an honest day’s work,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. “Seven out of 10 freelancers in New York City struggle to collect pay for services they’ve delivered to businesses. That is unacceptable. This put freelancers in a difficult position where they are forced to live in a state of uncertainty, and jeopardizes their financial stability.”
“Every worker who successfully executes their job should be paid on-time and in full, regardless of their status as a freelancer. This innovative legislation will finally provide necessary protections to the City’s independent workforce, and make NYC the nation’s leader in protecting freelancers,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres.
IN THE NEWS
Kings County Politics, Lander: New York Has New Law Protecting Freelancers Against Getting Stiffed
National Law Review, NYC Council Passes Bill Protecting Freelance Workers
NY Law Journal, NYC Council Passes Bill Protecting Freelancers’ Wages, a First