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NYC Acts to Protect Freelance Workers from Wage Theft

On November 16, 2016, New York City (NYC) Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act” (Int 1017-2015-C). The ordinance establishes and enhances protections for freelance workers. Freelance worker means any natural person or any organization composed of no more than one natural person, whether or not incorporated or employing a trade name, that is hired or retained as an independent contractor by a hiring party to provide services in exchange for compensation. This term does not include:

  • Any person who, pursuant to the contract at issue, is a sales representative as defined in § 191-a of the Labor Law;
  • Any person engaged in the practice of law pursuant to the contract at issue and who is a member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of any state, possession, territory, commonwealth, or the District of Columbia and who is not under any order of any court suspending, enjoining, restraining, disbarring, or otherwise restricting such person in the practice of law; and
  • Any person who is a licensed medical professional.

Specifically, the ordinance provides the right to a written contract, timely payment, and protections against retaliation. The contract requirement applies when a freelancer’s services are valued at $800. At a minimum, the written contract must include the following information:

  • The name and mailing address of both the hiring party and the freelance worker;
  • An itemization of all services to be provided by the freelance worker, the value of the services to be provided pursuant to the contract, and the rate and method of compensation; and
  • The date on which the hiring party must pay the contracted compensation or the mechanism by which such date will be determined.

Employers are also required to pay freelancers on or before the date designated by the contract or, if there is no contracted date, within 30 days of the work being completed.

Penalties for violations include statutory damages, double damages, injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees. Repeat offenders may be subject to civil penalties of up to $25,000.

The ordinance goes into effect on May 15, 2017 and only applies to contracts entered into after that date.

Read the Ordinance