Yesterday the New York City Council passed the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, a local law (No. 1017-2015) establishing protections for freelance workers. The bill now goes to the Mayor’s desk for signature.

The law, amending Title 10 of the N.Y.C. Administrative Code, would establish and enhance protections for freelance workers, including the right to receive a written contract, the right to be paid timely and in full, and the right to be free from retaliation. The law would create penalties for violations of these rights, including statutory damages, double damages, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees. Highlights of the new law, which would apply to private employers and take effect 180 days after the Mayor signs it, include the following:

  • Contracts between a hiring party and a freelance worker valued at $800 or more must be reduced to writing and contain, at a minimum, 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.
  • The contracted compensation must be paid to the freelance worker either on or before the date such compensation is due under the terms of the contract, or if the contract is silent, not later than 30 days after the completion of services.
  • Hiring parties are prohibited from threatening, intimidating, disciplining, harassing, denying a work opportunity to, or discriminating against a freelance worker, or taking any other action that penalizes a freelance worker for, or is reasonably likely to deter a freelancer worker from, exercising or attempting to exercise any right guaranteed under the new law, or from obtaining future work opportunity because the freelance worker has done so.
  • A freelance worker who is aggrieved by a violation of the new law may file an administrative complaint with the City within two years after the acts alleged to have violated the law or a civil action against the hiring party within two or six years after such acts (depending on whether the claim is for failure to have a contract in place, failure to make a payment, or retaliation), but the freelance worker must make an election between administrative and court remedies.
  • A freelance worker who prevails on a claim under the new law can recover, depending on the nature of the claim, the contracted value of the services, double damages, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, injunctive relief, statutory damages, and “other such remedies as may be appropriate.”
  • The City may commence a civil action against a hiring party engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the new law and seek up to $25,000 in civil penalties.
  • The new law does not limit a freelance worker’s right to bring common law or other legal claims against the hiring party, including for breach of contract.
  • The law will take effect 180 days after the Mayor signs it and will apply only to contracts entered into on or after that effective date.
  • The City’s Office of Labor Standards will be authorized to take any actions necessary to implement the law, including the promulgation of rules.

We will keep you posted on developments under this new City law.