A bill introduced to the City Council yesterday would add a modicum of legal protection for freelancers, who are often stiffed by employers hoping to wriggle out of upholding their ends of contracts.
The legislation, introduced by Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), would require that employers draw up a written contract specifying the amount the freelancer is to be paid, along with the deadline for payment. Failure to comply could mean $5,000 in fines, and employers found to be violating the contract intentionally could be charged with a misdemeanor.
Though one of every three workers operates independently, freelancers still sorely lack basic protections enjoyed by full-time employees. Horror stories of short-changing, as told to the Freelancers Union, include companies declaring bankruptcy to avoid payment, non-payment up to $17,000, and workers facing eviction because they couldn't make rent. (Writing for The New Republic, Max Rivlin-Nadler reminds us that the Freelancers Union is more of a lobbyist than an actual union, and wonders what a real freelancers' union would look like.)
“New York City is the freelance capital of the world," Lander said in a statement. "We have the opportunity to lead the nation in recognizing the vital contributions independent workers make to our economy—by ensuring freelancers get real protections against payment theft."
According to the release, more than 70 percent of freelancers experience late or nonpayment at some point in their careers, and they’re stiffed an average of $6,390 every year.