NPPA Taking Legal Action Against State of California, Appealing New Law Forcing Freelancers to Become Employees

NPPA Taking Legal Action Against State of California, Appealing New Law Forcing Freelancers to Become Employees

California is being sued by industry group NPPA on behalf of independent journalists over Assembly Bill 5. It’s claimed the bill will also affect freelance photographers, potentially meaning they have to “become employees of their clients.”

The lawsuit was announced on Tuesday by the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Inc and was filed by the National Press Photographers Association. The legal battle is taking place in a Los Angeles federal court. The suit claims the bill will “devastate” the lives of freelancers and is entirely unconstitutional.

ASJA president Milton C. Toby, JD, said:

We have no choice but to go to court to protect the rights of independent writers and freelance journalists as a whole. The stakes are too high, and we cannot stand by as our members and our colleagues face ill-conceived and potentially career-ending legislation.

AB-5 was signed into law back in September and is due to become enforced next month. Under the bill, freelancers and independent workers would become protected by minimum wage laws, etc., but the NPPA will interrupt the relationships many freelancers have with their clients, given that jobs are often on an ad hoc basis.

The issues the NPPA has taken with the law are in regards to its “professional services” exemption. While covered under the exemption law, freelancers are limited to just 35 “submissions” for one client per year, which could be disastrous for photojournalists. It should be noted that videographers aren’t included in the exemption, so if the bill is to be brought into law, it’s essentially illegal for any videographer to work freelance.

The NPPA anticipates up to a 60-75% loss of income for some of its clients should the bill come into effect. Read more about the issue here.

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Deleted Account's picture

I guess I see both sides. The company that exploits by not giving fair benefits... because I'm not an "employee." This law would protect me.

However, as the opinion piece I read in Times of San Diego pointed out... there are plenty of people who want this non-company, independent contractor status (although I'd want to see verifiable numbers).

What I don't understand is how the writers of AB 5 couldn't see this law screwing with the Prime Directive of the freelance world.

2020 will be interesting on so many levels.

Timothy Roper's picture

Couldn't photographers and videographers form an LLC to get around this, which many people think is a good idea anyway, and is something of a standard industry practice?

R G's picture

you should do that anyway Timothy Roper - it is smart busienss pracitice - to be incorpoarted ( LLC) tax and insurance wise !

Mr Blah's picture

This is basic stuff. Wihtin minutes I found the main criteria and they are reasonable:

The bill, introduced in December 2018, places the ruling on a statutory footing[13] by inserting §2750.3 to the California Labor Code, and, as a general rule, puts the burden of proof on employers to show that a worker is properly classified as an independent contractor where all three of the following conditions are met:[14][15]

the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact

the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity's business

the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity[16]

This means that a photo journalist working for multiple agencies or newpapers could still be an independent contractor (as per criteria 3) but one that works only for 1 can't. Which makes sense.


"The NPPA anticipates up to a 60-75% loss of income for some of its clients should the bill come into effect. Read more about the issue here."

Read more where? Did you forget to modify the text once you copied it?

Deleted Account's picture

Curious to hear your thoughts on why an organization like the NPPA would go to the trouble to file a lawsuit.

Mr Blah's picture

I'd be more curious to see how and where did 60% come from.

Deleted Account's picture

Good answer.

Mike Ditz's picture

I usually don't California bash, but this kind of law explains why many companies are looking elsewhere. Probably comes from the fact most politicians never did anything other than law school, politics or lobbying ever since winning the race for jr high school class president.
As someone who hires freelancers and is a freelancer I wonder how this will play out.

Mr Blah's picture

Do you have sources to back the claim that companies are leaving or looking elsewhere than California?

Michael Dougherty's picture

For people that freelance and drivers that might work for Uber and LYFT at the same time, couldn't they incorporate themselves so the client is actually temporarily hiring a company and not a person. Cumbersome but might work. I'm sure some attorney will think of an easy, legal way to do this.

Mr Blah's picture

Or you know... Uber and lyft could pay decent wage and provide coverage etc...

Mike Ditz's picture

Then the fares would not be 30% less than old fashioned cabs. Uber and Lyft have long term plans.

Mr Blah's picture

I'd rather pay for a service that I know the provider can live off than exploit them.

Then again, I'm not an american hell bent on getting every penny on the dollar at the expense of other humans.

Mike Ditz's picture

Well whatever works for you...not everyone can afford that, American or not. Given a choice between getting in a car at point A and being dropped off at point B and a choice of $90 (cab) or $55 (uber) most will go for the less money option. On the bright side Uber has dragged the cab industry out of the dark ages. Somewhat.
Originally Uber was meant to be a gig job not a career, like working at fast food places. Most part time jobs don't have much in form of benefits.
Uber's long term plan is autonomous cars without drivers, not sure where that leaves cab drivers.

Mike Dochterman's picture

I'm betting those plans do not involve drivers at all .. they are just waiting for self driving cars..kinda like the taxi driver in the original Total Recall movie

Gary Gray's picture

It's a labor law that may be well intentioned but flawed imo.

The basic argument of the lawsuit is that everyone has the right to work for 25 cents an hour.

More on it here.

R G's picture

I don't wanna have anythign to do with this idiotic nonsense - there is a reason why I did choose to be a Freelance-Photograher !

Tomas Hailor's picture

This is very outrageous news. The state puts us the framework tougher and tougher every year. It looks like I won’t even have money for a normal lawyer. But it’s good that there is a that will make everything much cheaper. But the state still needs to build new roads, clean up the streets, and all this costs money.