Last October, New York City became the place in the country to pass a law protecting the rights of freelance workers. Today the bill known as the Freelance Isn't Free Act, officially went into effect.
The NYC City Council unanimously voted to approve the bill which puts into place legal protections and rights for freelance workers. Specifically, the act protects freelancers performing work for $800 or more in a four month period by requiring employers to provide a written contract and pay for the work in full within 30 days of completion or a pre-determined date. Employers that violate this time frame can now be reported to the city's Office of Labor Standards within two years of failure to pay and the office will send a certified letter to the employer within 20 days detailing the alleged breach of contract.
If the letter doesn't scare the employer into paying, the bill also has provisions for freelancers that are forced to take their client to court. If the court rules in the worker's favor, the judge may award the worker double damages, attorney fees, no contract fees (if applicable), as well as additional civil penalties up to $25,000 at the judge's discretion.
While this bill is currently limited to freelancers who work with clients in New York City, it is an encouraging step forward for one of the major cities in the country and will set a strong precedent for other cities to follow suite. I only recently finally received payment from one of the largest broadcasting companies in the nation for work I did last September, and only after multiple emails back and forth trying to get the invoice paid. If there were legal protections like this in place for me then I am sure the whole process would have been much easier (or at least much more lucrative).
Freelancers Union has an excellent plain language explanation of the bill on their site, as well as a brand new app designed to help freelancers find legal representation from lawyers who specialize in representing solo entrepreneurs and small business claims.
Lead image by Leo Hidalgo CC.