Under NYC’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act, Freelance Workers Can Recover for Late/Unpaid Wages and Retaliation

On May 15, 2017, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act went into effect in New York City, providing freelance workers with a statutory basis to recover in court for late or unpaid wages, retaliation, or other violations of the Act.

Subject to a few exceptions, the Act applies to any individual (regardless of immigration status) who is hired as an independent contractor to provide services in exchange for compensation. The law also protects freelance workers in all industries and professions, including those working for-profit and nonprofit employers.

The Freelance Isn’t Free Act has three main functions. First, it requires a written contract for all jobs between the same freelancer and hiring party that add up to $800 or more over the course of 120 days. The contract must include, at a minimum: (1) contact information for the freelance worker and hiring party, (2) a description of the work to be performed and the compensation to be paid, and (3) the date on which the hiring party must pay the freelance worker for his or her services.

Second, the Act guarantees the right to timely and full payment under the written contract. The law requires that freelance workers be paid on the date set forth in the contract. If the contract does not specify a deadline for payment, the Act requires payment within 30 days after completion of the work.

Third, the Act protects freelance workers from illegal retaliation for exercising (or attempting to exercise) their rights under this law. Prohibited retaliation includes threats, intimidation, discipline, harassment, discrimination, denying a work opportunity, or “any other action” that penalizes a freelance worker for (or is designed to a deter a freelance worker from) exercising their rights under the Act. In addition, the Act prohibits the hiring party from “blacklisting” or taking any other action that prevents a freelance worker from obtaining a future work opportunity.

If a hiring party violates any of the provisions in the Act, the financial repercussions may be severe. A freelance worker is eligible to recover additional damages from a hiring party who refuses to execute a written contract, makes late payments, or retaliates against the freelancer.

The full text of the Freelance Isn’t Free Act is available here.

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