Somewhere along the last few years, a lot of Americans got fed up working entirely for someone else. Gig work has become so common that it’s estimated that up to 39% of U.S. workers now fall under the “freelancer” umbrella – and New York is home to many of them.
In December of 2022, however, New York freelancers suffered a major political and financial loss, however, when Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed the Freelance Isn’t Free Act. This legislation was designed to give freelancers significant wage protections, but many felt that the vetoed bill was rushed. The governor believed that some of the bill’s provisions would have been inappropriately burdensome to the NY State Depart of Labor because of the cost of enforcement and a lack of clarity surrounding how the state budget would be impacted.
Another round of legislation is coming up
Under a joint effort by State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Harry Bonson, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act has been reintroduced, this time modeled heavily on legislation that already went into effect in 2017.
Under the new Act, freelance workers would gain a measure of financial security due to provisions like:
- Mandatory contracts between freelancers and clients for any work worth $250 or more or aggregate work worth $800 over four months
- The inclusion of specific payment dates within 30 days of the completion of work in each contract, so that freelancers don’t have to struggle so hard to get their invoices paid
- Anti-retaliation protections and legal assistance for freelancers, who would be eligible for double damages and attorney fees if the freelancer is successful in pressing a wage theft claim against a client
- A fine for clients who refuse to use contracts and bigger fines (up to $25,000) for clients who have a pattern of violations – plus the potential for criminal sanctions.
Advocates are hopeful that this version of the Act will pass. In the meantime, however, freelancers need to realize that New York is fairly progressive about their rights. If you’re a freelancer who has been misled, abused or otherwise mistreated by a client, find out more about your legal options.