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NYC Wage Theft Protections for Freelancers

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on October 31, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's one of the scary things about freelancing -- how do you get paid? Without a regular contract and paycheck, getting compensated for your services, and on time at that, can be a struggle. And most freelancers don't have the money to fight a protracted legal battle just to get paid.

And these aren't small or isolated problems. A recent Freelancers Union report indicated the average freelancer had to wait 98 days to get paid, 71 percent of freelancers cited trouble collecting payment, and freelancers lost an average of almost $6,000 in unpaid income in 2014 alone.

Fortunately for New York City's freelancers, help is on the way.

Fight for Your Right to Freelance

NYC's city council just unanimously approved a new bill to protect the city's freelancers from wage theft. Now all that's required is for Mayor Bill de Blasio to sign in into law. Known as the Freelance Isn't Free bill, the amendment to New York's administrative code would grant freelancers some new rights, as well as impose some serious penalties on employers for late or non-payment.

Specifically, freelancers would be granted "the right to written contract, the right to be paid timely and in full and the right to be free of retaliation." The contract requirement applies when a freelancer's services are valued at $800 or more, and must include 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." 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.

Cost of Not Paying Freelancers

Should employers violate these rights, freelancers would be entitled to "statutory damages, double damages, injunctive relief and attorney's fees." This shifts the burden of litigation onto the employer should they violate the law, and makes it easier for freelancers to take non-paying employers to court. In addition, the city itself can sue repeat offenders under the law, and get up to $25,000 if there is "evidence of a pattern or practice of violations."

Whether you're a freelancer trying to get paid or an employer wondering about your legal obligations to freelancers, get in touch with a local employment attorney to find out what the law says in your city or state.

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