In its first year, New York City’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act resulted in 299 inquiries stemming from 264 complaints filed with the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs, according to a report released last week.
The law went into effect May 15, 2017. According to the report, “Demanding Rights in an On-Demand Economy: Key Findings from Year One of NYC’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act,” payment violations, such as late payment and nonpayment for services, accounted for the vast majority of complaints lodged by freelancers (98%); the DCA assisted freelancers in recovering $254,866 in lost wages.
Under the law, the DCA:
- Fields general inquiries about the law, so freelancers and hiring parties are well-informed about their rights and obligations.
- Conducts initial consultations with freelancers who believe their hiring party may have violated the law.
- Attempts to resolve workers’ complaints against hiring parties by sending a notice of complaint to the hiring party and communicating the hiring party’s response to the freelancer.
- Prepares freelancers to and guiding them through the process of pursuing their claims in civil court.
- Develops and distributes materials and training and education to help freelancers exercise their rights and hiring parties fulfill their obligations.
Through several provisions, the law makes it easier for freelancers to initiate and win lawsuits alleging breach of contract for failure to pay for services, according to the report. For example, the law requires hiring parties pay double damages and attorneys’ fees when a freelancer prevails in a suit for nonpayment. Thus, hiring parties are more likely to settle outside of the courtroom, the report says. The majority of complainants, 98%, received payment without having to file in court.
“I am proud of the success DCA’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards has had securing lost wages for freelance workers while empowering them to take action and seek help,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “Our report shows that making it clear to those that hire freelancers that there is oversight of new requirements, including issuing written contracts and making timely payment has been a successful safeguard for workers, leading them to being paid on time and in full. DCA will use the findings from this report to better inform our educational outreach to ensure that all New Yorkers’ rights at work — whatever kind of work it is — are protected.”
Companies — including CW programs — seeking to engage freelancers should be aware of the law regardless of the location of their workers. This ensures a better experience for both the worker and the employer, resulting in a win for both sides.