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On Oct. 27, the New York City Council approved a bill that would establish protections for freelance workers. It is expected that Mayor Bill de Blasio will sign the bill into law in the near future.
The bill, entitled "Establishing Protections For Freelance Workers," defines a freelance worker as a single person, or an entity composed of no more than one person (whether incorporated or using a trade name), that is retained as an independent contractor to perform services in exchange for compensation.
Individuals or entities practicing law, sales representatives, and licensed medical professionals are excluded. The bill requires:
It also provides penalties for violations of these rights, including statutory damages, double damages, injunctive relief, and attorney's fees.
The minimum terms of the written contract to which the freelance worker has a right include:
Potential damages vary depending on the violation, and can amount to a sizeable aggregate award. For example, a freelance worker who prevails in an action alleging a violation of the written contract requirement may be awarded statutory damages of $250.
If the hiring party fails to pay timely or in full, or if the hiring party engaged in prohibited retaliation, the freelancer may also recover statutory damages equal to the value of the contract.
Double damages may be awarded if the hiring party fails to pay in full by the date provided under the contract, or within 30 days after the completion of services if the contract does not include a date or mechanism by which such date can be computed.
Statutory damages equal to the value of the contract are also available if the hiring party retaliates against a freelance worker for exercising, or attempting to exercise, any right under this bill. If there is evidence of a pattern of repeated violations, the city of New York, through the Corporation Counsel, may bring a civil action to recover a civil penalty not to exceed $25,000.
Finally, the bill provides a two-year statute of limitations for violations of the written contract requirement and a six-year limitations period for bringing an action alleging failure to make timely or full payment or for retaliation.
If Mayor de Blasio signs the bill into law as expected, it will take effect 180 days thereafter.
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María Cáceres-Boneau and David M. Wirtz are attorneys with Littler in New York City. © Littler. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission
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