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NYC Freelancers Get Protection from Wage Theft

More than 70 percent of freelancers surveyed had been cheated out of pay. (Pexels)
More than 70 percent of freelancers surveyed had been cheated out of pay. (Pexels)
May 16, 2017

NEW YORK – Freelance workers and independent contractors in New York City now have added protection from people who don't pay. The Freelance Isn't Free Act went into effect on Monday.

More than a million New Yorkers work as freelancers, and according to Caitlin Pearce, director of member engagement for the Freelancers Union, more than 70 percent have been cheated out of pay they've earned at an average of $6,000 a year.

"With this law, clients who hire freelancers will have to use a contract, will have to pay within 30 days, and if they pay their freelancers late then they're going to be facing a host of different types of penalties," she explains.

Penalties can include double damages and attorney fees. The Freelancers Union hopes the law becomes a model for other cities and states around the country.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs will be assisting freelancers who are having problems getting paid. And as Pearce points out, the definition of "freelancer" in the law is quite broad.

"As long as you're working for yourself and you're a 1099er and you've been doing more than $800 worth of work over the course of four months, the law would apply to you," she adds.

Between 2005 and 2015, the percentage of American workers in "alternative work arrangements" increased from 10.1 percent to almost 16 percent.

Pearce adds that it's often hard to find legal help to collect relatively small amounts of money, so the Freelancers Union also has launched a new smartphone app to put freelancers in touch with a team of 30 attorneys.

"So if someone is having a nonpayment issue, they can just come to us, and download our app, and connect with one of our lawyers," she says.

The phone app is available on the web at freelancersunion.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY