Just under a year ago, the New York City Council enacted the Freelancing Isn’t Free Act. This law established new legal protections for freelance workers, including: (1) you have a right to a written contract for all jobs worth $800 or more, (2) you have a right to receive double damages for nonpayment, plus attorney’s fees, if you sue in court, and (3) you have a right to be free from all forms of retaliation by the hiring party and monetary damages shall be assessed for said retaliation.
The new law also creates a complaint process within the Office of Labor Policy and Standards, by which a freelancer can file a complaint against a hiring party and request a written response. If the hiring party does not respond to the complaint within 20 days, a rebuttable presumption is established in favor of the freelancer. What this means is that if the parties go to court, the burden of proof is put upon the hiring party to prove that the violations asserted by the freelancer did not exist or did not happen. As such, hiring parties are highly prejudiced (in the legal sense) by not responding to a complaint.
With the Freelancing Isn’t Free Act as the legal backdrop, it becomes clear that hiring parties face additional penalties and fines for noncompliance with the law, including double damages for nonpayment, attorney’s fees, damages for retaliation, and fees for not providing a written contract. While litigation may still be the best option for some freelancers, this new penalty structure provides space for the freelancer and the hiring party to negotiate a dollar amount that is more than the contract value at the heart of the dispute, but less than the double damages and attorney’s fees that could be assessed under the law.
Moreover, going to court is a lengthy and emotionally draining process, even when you are in the right and you win your case. It is emotionally draining because it destroys the working relationship between the parties. Through mediation, it is possible to not only recoup on nonpayment claims, but also to address and heal the emotional toll of a conflict so that future jobs and future collaboration are possible.
One final tip, for freelancers who theoretically have a claim: you could file a complaint with the Office of Labor Policy and Standards, wait for the hiring party to not respond, get the rebuttable presumption, and then take that presumption with you to the mediation as a form of bargaining power. Just saying.
Information about the Freelancing Isn’t Free Law was gathered here: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dca/downloads/pdf/workers/FAQs-Freelance.pdf