Starting today, freelancers get paid on time.

Starting today, freelancers get paid on time.

Just Raymona, a pattern-maker from the Bronx, paid the people she owed out of her savings when she was stiffed, but couldn’t pay her own rent or phone bill.

Mauricio Niebla was part of a group of 30 writers and editors cheated out of a total of $400,000 by a national publishing company.

The stories go on and on. Over one million New Yorkers work as freelancers or independent contractors. Unfortunately, most of them – over 70% according to a Freelancers Union survey – have been cheated out of payments that they’ve earned, for amounts that average more than $6,000 per year.

Today, that changes.

Because, today, NYC’s “Freelance Isn’t Free Act” goes into effect, to make sure independent contractors get paid on-time and in full for their work. I was proud to sponsor the law – the first of its kind in the country – and to work together with the Freelancers Union and so many allies to get it passed.

Starting today, any “hiring party” (that can be a company or an individual) that hires a freelancer for work totaling more than $800 must execute a simple, written contract – it could be as simple as an e-mail – describing the work to be completed, the rate and method of payment, the date when payment is due, and basic contact information for both parties (sample contract here, courtesy of the Department of Consumer Affairs).

Payment in full is required within 30 days of the completion of services or of the payment due date under the contract (whichever is later). Companies who fail to pay would face penalties, including double damages, attorney’s fees, and civil penalties.

The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs will act as a navigator for freelancers facing nonpayment.  Check out DCA’s new Freelance Workers resource page, which includes information about the law, model contracts, and complaint forms.

You can also get some great resources from the Freelancers Union, who helped to conceive, create, and advocate for the law – and will be helping freelancers exercise their new rights.

We hope the new Freelance Isn’t Free Act will become a model for other cities and states around the country, who believe that everyone should get paid on-time and in-full for their work (the law passed the City Council 51-0, showing bi-partisan support for the concept, even if the President has been one of the highest-profile violators).

With more & more American workers engaged in “alternative work arrangements” than ever before – up from 10.1 percent in February 2005 up to nearly 16 percent in late 2015 – we need new models for protecting and supporting workers in the gig economy. With Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, and gridlock in so many state capitals, cities can and must take the lead in writing new laws to keep up with a changing economy.

The challenges facing freelance, independent, contingent, gig, and shift workers do not end here, of course.

As we outlined in a report from my office last fall, Raising the Floor for Workers in the Gig Economy: Tools for NYC and Beyond, there is much more we should do: like extending the employment protections of NYC’s human rights law to independent contractors, helping establish “portable benefits funds,” and strengthening gig-workers rights to organize.

Our next step: making sure that fast-food and other shift workers have predictable and stable schedules, a pathway to full-time jobs, and more ability to organize. That’s why I’m proud to also be sponsoring “Fair Work Week” legislation in the City Council this spring as well.

For today, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act – helping to make sure that Mauricio, Raymona, and the other 1.3 million freelancers in NYC get paid on-time and in full for the work they do – is a great step forward.

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