NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Releases Report Marking 1st Year of ‘Freelance Isn't Free Act’

 

If you are a freelancer in New York City, your chances of getting paid in a timely fashion for your work have improved during the past year, posits Victory State Bank. The only community-based business bank on Staten Island points to Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Lorelei Salas’ announcement of a recently released report: “Demanding Rights in an On-Demand Economy: Key Findings from Year One of NYC’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act.”

The report by the DCA’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards (OLPS) summarizes key findings from the Office’s work implementing the law in its first year. The Freelance Isn’t Free Act, the first law of its kind in the country, took effect May 15, 2017 – giving freelance workers the legal right to written contracts, timely payment, and freedom from retaliation.

In its first year, DCA received 299 inquiries about the law and 264 complaints from freelancers. The most common allegations were for payment violations (98 percent), including late payment and non-payment for services. To date, DCA has assisted freelancers in recovering $254,866 in lost wages.

The report’s findings show that freelancers who filed complaints report a high level of satisfaction with the Navigation Program, which serves freelancers who inquire about the law or seek to assert their rights under it.

Freelancers cite navigators’ quick responsiveness, high level of knowledge about the law, and their sense of caring and support. DCA will use the report’s findings to strengthen outreach and education of this critical workplace law to workers and hiring parties alike.

“I am proud of the success DCA’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards has had securing lost wages for freelance workers while empowering them to take action and seek help,” said DCA Commissioner Salas. “Our report shows that making it clear to those that hire freelancers that there is oversight of new requirements, including issuing written contracts and making timely payment has been a successful safeguard for workers, leading them to being paid on time and in full. DCA will use the findings from this report to better inform our educational outreach to ensure that all New Yorkers’ rights at work – whatever kind of work it is – are protected.”

 

 

KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE REPORT INCLUDE:

  • The majority of freelance workers who use the Navigation Program secured payment from their hiring parties.

Findings show the Navigation Program is highly effective in securing payment for freelancers. Of the 259 complaints for payment violations DCA received since May 2017, 37 percent of freelancers were paid within 30 days, 54 percent within 60 days, and 61 percent within 90 days. Additionally, 90 percent of these freelancers received the full amount owed by their hiring party.

DCA assists freelancers in exercising their rights through the Navigation Program in a number of ways including:

1)      Fielding general inquiries about the law, so both freelancers and hiring parties are well-informed about their rights and obligations;

 

2)      Conducting initial consultations with freelancers who believe their hiring party may have violated the law;

 

3)      Attempting to resolve workers’ complaints against hiring parties by sending a notice of complaint to the hiring party and communicating the hiring party’s response to the freelancer;

 

4)      Preparing freelancers to and guiding them through the process of pursuing their claims in civil court; and

 

5)      Developing and distributing materials and training and education to help freelancers exercise their rights and hiring parties fulfill their obligations.

 

  • The majority of complainants who secured payment did not need to pursue their claim in court.

The report indicates that 21 percent of workers who filed a complaint with DCA received payment following the initial consultation with a navigator, 77 percent received payment after a navigator sent a notice of complaint to the hiring party, and 2 percent were resolved after the freelancer filed a suit in civil court.

The law includes several provisions designed to make it easier for freelancers to initiate and win lawsuits alleging breach of contract for failure to pay for services. This includes a requirement mandating hiring parties to pay double damages and attorneys’ fees when a freelancer prevails in their suit for non-payment, making relatively small cases more viable for a freelancer to pursue. Because of these added protections – hiring parties are more likely to settle outside of the courtroom, saving freelancers’ time while increasing their ability to collect lost wages sooner.

  • Complainants come from a wide range of industries and occupations, tend to be young, English-speaking, and highly educated.

While 72 percent of freelancers who filed a complaint with DCA worked in the arts and entertainment industry, individual occupations varied drastically, with the most common occupations including photographers (11 percent), film and video editors (9 percent), and journalists (8 percent).

While freelancers between the ages of 18-29 made up only 9 percent of the freelancer population in New York City, they represented 46 percent of all complaints received. Complainants also had higher levels of education (86 percent held a bachelor’s or higher compared to 49 percent of all freelancers in New York City), greater incomes ($47,500 median annual income compared to $30,000) and were far more likely to report English as their primary language (97 percent compared to 50 percent).

DCA will continue to develop and pursue strategies to reach more workers who can benefit from the law, including paid advertising and social media campaigns. DCA will use the information gathered during the first year of the law to recommend ways to improve the Freelance Isn’t Free Act.

 

 

ABOUT VICTORY STATE BANK

 

VSB Bancorp, Inc. (OTCQX: VSBN) is the one-bank holding company for Victory State Bank. As Staten Island, N.Y.’s only community-based commercial bank, Victory State Bank operates five full-service locations on the Island, including the main office in the community of Great Kills and branches in West Brighton, St. George, Dongan Hills and Rosebank.

A planned sixth branch, to be situated in Meiers Corners, has received both regulatory and building department approvals.

For additional information, Victory State Bank may be reached at 718-979-1100, or visited online at www.VictoryStateBank.com.

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