Freelance Wage Theft: Understanding New York’s New Protections for the Self-Employed

You’re a freelancer, which means that you’re self-employed. Some of your clients, however, seem to think it also means you work for free.

You worked hard on their projects. When you ran out of midnight oil to burn, you started immediately on the 1:00 a.m. batch. In each instance, they loved the final result and told you to send your invoice. You did, but a month later you’re still waiting, and all you’re getting from these clients is excuses like:

  • “I’m a month late? Sorry, I made a mistake.”
  • “You must have been late sending in your invoice.”
  • “I can’t pay you until my client pays me.”
  • “The person who signs the checks is on vacation this month.”

Come May 15, 2017, they won’t be able to stiff you out of your hard-earned money any longer. Last October the Freelance Isn’t Free Act was passed, making New York City the first city in the United States to protect freelancers against wage theft.

This is great news for you and your fellow freelancers, who make up close to 38% of New York City’s workforce. Thanks to this new ordinance, the following rules will come into effect:

  • If the work you’re being hired to do is valued at $800 or more, there must be a written contract that specifies, among other things, when you will be paid.
  • The $800 applies to the value to work you do for that client in the preceding three months- in case they were thinking of dodging the law by breaking the assignment into smaller chunks.
  • You must be paid no later than the date indicated in the contract. If no date is indicated, payment must be made within 30 days.
  • Employers are prohibited from agreeing to a timely payment only if you accept a lower rate than originally promised.

Violations can be more expensive than simply paying you what you’re owed on time. Under the new law, deviating from the contract requirement carries a penalty of $250. If they conveniently forget to pay you on time, they face a penalty equal to twice the amount owed.  They also can’t retaliate against you when you assert your rights under the law.

You work for yourself instead of a mega-corporation, but that does not give clients a free pass to take advantage of you. Now, thanks to the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, they could be forced to pay a lot more than they tried to save by cheating you.

If you have any questions about your rights as a New York freelancer, contact the lawyers at AndersonDodson today to set up a free confidential consultation. We will help you remind slow- and non-paying clients that the only one entitled to profit from your work is you.

Written by AndersonDodson


AndersonDodson, P.C. is a law firm dedicated to holding employers accountable for paying their employees correctly. We are aggressive and tenacious when we need to be, if that’s what it takes to get the job done. Sometimes the playground bully needs to be brought down a notch, and we are plenty equipped for a fight if it becomes necessary. But we also don’t go looking for a fight. Our mission is to get our clients paid what the law says they deserve, not to stir up trouble where none is needed. Trouble is distracting from life, and living life should always come first.