Freelance Isn’t Free Act

What It Means When Hiring Freelancers

A new bill to protect the rights of Freelance Workers came into effect in the State of New York yesterday (May 15, 2017).

The Freelance Isn’t Free Act (Local Law 140 of 2016) establishes and enhances protections for freelance workers. For Freelancers the act means that they now have:

  • the right to a written contract
  • the right to be paid timely and in full
  • the right to be free of retaliation

The new legislation (ratified by Mayor Bill De Blasio in 2016 after a successful lobbying campaign by the non-profit organisation Freelancers Union) establishes penalties for those violating these rights. These penalties include statutory damages, double damages, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees.

If you engage Freelance Workers (defined by the Department of Consumer Affairs as any individual whom you hire or retain as an independent contractor to provide services for compensation), now is the time to familiarise yourself with the new regulations in order to avoid legal consequence.

The Right to a Written Contract

All engagements totalling $800 or more (amortised over a 120 day period) must be in writing. The agreement must spell out the work to be performed; the rate of pay; and the payment date. You are obliged to keep a copy of all written contracts. A Freelance Worker is able to file a civil action against you if you do not issue a contract, so make this a priority.

You can download a template agreement here: Model Contract

Timely Payment

You must pay a freelance worker for all completed work. Payment must be made on or before the date in the contract. If the contract does not include a payment date (for example where the payment is subject to acceptance of material delivery), then you must pay the freelance worker within 30 days after the work is completed.

Source: Freelancers Union: The Costs of Non Payment Report

No Retaliation

It is illegal to penalize, threaten, or blacklist freelance workers because they exercised their rights.

What to Do if A Complaint Has Been Filed Against You

If the Freelance Worker files a complaint against you through the DCA’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards, you will be receive a notice from the DCA. You will then have 20 days to respond to this notice of complaint in writing. Failure to respond to any civil action will mean a judge will presume your culpability; and will award accordingly.

What’s important about this new law is that Freelancers Union is currently lobbying other states for it to become common place to protect the rights of Freelance Workers across America.

If you have any questions about this new law you can email the Department of Consumer Affairs at: freelancer@dca.nyc.gov

A list of FAQs is available here: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dca/downloads/pdf/workers/FAQs-Freelance.pdf

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