Bill de Blasio (214315)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced one of the first documented protections for freelance workers.

Known as the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, the law gives freelance employees the legal right to written contracts, timely payments and freedom from retaliation. To celebrate the implementation of the legislation, the Department of Consumer Affairs conducted a Day of Action with other partners to educate New Yorkers, launched a social media campaign and co-hosted a launch event with the Freelancers Union.

Under the new law, freelance workers can file a complaint with the DCA’s Office of Labor Policy and Standards, which will then provide court navigation services to freelance workers pursuing claims in court and survey freelance workers about their experiences pursuing their claims under the law in court. According to City Hall officials, an estimated 500,000 freelance experiences will benefit from this legislation.

“This law is an important step toward securing financial stability for the many freelance workers who bring their talents to companies but then struggle to make ends meet because of unpaid wages and broken promises,” stated DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “By requiring hiring parties to issue written contracts, we can better ensure that workers are paid on time and in full. DCA’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards is committed to working on behalf of all freelancers to create a more secure workforce for today’s evolving economy.”

The Freelance Isn’t Free Act requires contracts between freelance workers and hiring parties that are worth $800 or more to be in writing, requires hiring parties to pay freelance workers on or before the date in the contract or within 30 days after the work is completed and creates a Court Navigation Program within the DCA that offers freelance workers information about the law, the court process, sample court forms, court services and worker classification.

“With one-third of the workforce freelancing, it’s time for us to build a new safety net that reflects the realities of how Americans are working,” said Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of Freelancers Union, in a statement. “To achieve this, we must build new labor institutions and strategies for organizing workers and mobilizing for change. The Freelance Isn’t Free Act marks a turning point in developing real protections for the growing independent workforce.”

“Freelancers should never be forced to put their rent or utility bills on a credit card just because they haven’t been paid on time, or at all, for their hard work,” added New York City Council Member Margaret Chin in a statement. “The implementation of the Freelance Isn’t Free Act ensures that even more workers have the right to a written contract that guarantees timely payment and freedom from retaliation from employers.”

The DCA launched a 15-day social media campaign called #FacesofFreelancers to highlight freelancers in the city and let others know what rights are available to them. Workers and hiring parties can also visit or call 311 and ask for “Freelance Workers.”

“Though employment relationships and the workplace may change, failing to pay freelancers for their work is just like wage theft—and we need to make sure all workers have the information, the support and the legal protections they need,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in a statement.