Bill Passed By NYS Legislature Would Protect Freelancers From Gig Economy Pitfalls


Joann Reed said she still remembered how a local company refused to pay for two months of work she had done for them.

They tried to make her feel guilty by asking her if she was there to do good for the community. But in the end, she had a contract and it saved her from losing income or being exploited for her work.

“I want to do something good for the community, except I also have to earn a living,” she told them.

Although Reed was able to protect her income, she knows many other freelancers who weren’t so lucky. And she had to walk away from gigs because contractors weren’t signing contracts with her.

If Governor Kathy Hochul signs a pending bill, Reed and other freelancers will breathe a sigh of relief without having to worry as much about lost revenue. State lawmakers voted to pass the Freelance Isn’t Free bill to provide freelancers operating in the state with a slate of protections.

Under the law, freelancers could get similar rights to other employees, including binding contracts for their work if it amounts to $250 worth of work. It also requires payment within 30 days of completion of work and there are protections against retaliatory efforts.

Reed, an editorial and marketing consultant, said such legislation is crucial given the number of workers participating in the gig economy these days who lack protection.

A recent Independent Economy Council survey of more than 400 self-employed workers found that 74% were not paid on time and around 72% had outstanding bills for which they had not been paid.

The bill further sets out anti-retaliation rules and holds the state responsible for investigating missing payments, which freelancers can report to the Department of Labor or take to small claims court. If successful in court, self-employed workers can receive double what they seek in damages, in some cases, as well as reimbursement for legal costs.

“It also gives the freelancer the respect and position they deserve in our economy,” Reed said.

Freelancers working remotely for US companies from other parts of the world would also be protected by law.
Marie Rachelle, a freelancer in Buffalo, said that law was “incredibly overdue.”

For years, she has mentored other freelancers like herself and seen firsthand how granted such rules are. Few people are aware of the need to leverage their freelance work as they would a full-fledged business.

“It’s kind of setting a precedent that should already be followed. It also adds that extra protection since we are working for ourselves,” she said of the bill.

The Freelance Isn’t Free law went into effect in New York in 2017, but freelancers living outside the five boroughs didn’t have the same safeguards to consider. A 2019 report determined that more than a third of New York workers, or about 1.3 million people, were self-employed in the previous year.

Rafael Espinal, a former New York City Council member and executive director of the Freelancers Union, said the law had been “extremely successful” in the lower state, raising about $2.5 million in unpaid bills for self-employed facing difficulties.

He said the statewide enactment of the law was a “no brainer.”

“If the governor signs it, I think it really sends a strong signal across the country that more needs to be done to protect the workforce that has gone unprotected for so long,” he said. underline.


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