The New York City Council last Thursday approved the city’s “Freelance Isn’t Free Act” into law which adds payment protections to freelancers.

New York is the first city to have such rules covering independent contractors, according to New York Councilmember Brad Lander.

Provisions in the law, according to Lander’s office, include:

• It would apply to contracts of $800 and up, and requires companies that use freelancers to have a simple written contract — an email could suffice. The contract would include a description of work, rate and method of payment, date payment due, and contact information.

• Would require payment in 30 days of completion of services or the payment due date, whichever is later. Companies could face penalties for nonpayment, including double damages, attorney’s fees and civil penalties.

• Would prohibit companies from retaliation against freelancers who exercise their rights under the law.

The law also requires New York’s Office of Labor Standards to receive complaints as well as report on the effectiveness of the law.

Lander’s office reported more than 1 million New Yorkers work as freelancers. It also reported 71% have been cheated out of payment with the average loss $6,390 every year. In one case, Lander’s office said a publishing firm cheated 30 writers and editors out of a total of $400,000. Just 5% of freelancers take delinquent clients to court.

The Freelancers Union lauded the new law, and set up an online petition for similar laws in other cities.