The Model Alliance is pleased that New York City is working to protect freelancers and provides a dedicated resource for workplace questions and complaints at the Office of Labor Policy and Standards. The following overview outlines information on important rights and resources for NYC's freelance workers.
If you are a freelance worker in NYC, you have legal rights and a dedicated City resource for workplace questions and complaints: the Office of Labor Policy & Standards within the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA).
DCA created this overview to inform you about important rights and resources. For more information, call 311 and ask for “Freelance Workers” or visit nyc.gov/dca.
Who is Covered by the Law?
Under the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which took effect May 15, 2017, a freelance worker is any individual hired or retained as an independent contractor by a hiring party to provide services for compensation.
Freelancers work in many different industries, generally run their own business, and have specialized skills, capital investment, and the ability to negotiate job terms. Some of the most common industries for freelance workers include:
- film and video
- graphic and web design
- home contracting and repair
Exceptions: Certain sales representatives, attorneys, and licensed medical professionals are excluded from the definition of freelance worker. The law would generally not apply to work done under a collective bargaining agreement that defines workers as employees.
A hiring party is anyone, other than a government entity, that hires a freelance worker.
You have rights regardless of your immigration status.
All contracts worth $800 or more must be in writing. This includes all agreements between you and the hiring party that total $800 in any 120-day period. The written contract must spell out the work you will perform; the pay for the work; and the date you get paid. You and the hiring party must keep a copy of the written contract.
The hiring party must pay you for all completed work. You must receive payment on or before the date that is in the contract. If the contract does not include a payment date, the hiring party must pay you within 30 days after you complete the work.
Freedom from Retaliation
It is illegal for a hiring party to penalize, threaten, or blacklist you because you exercised your rights.
Freedom from Discrimination
The NYC Human Rights Law protects New Yorkers against many kinds of discrimination. If you experience discrimination, call the NYC Commission on Human Rights Infoline at 311 or 1-718-722-3131.
Right to File a Complaint
You can file a complaint with DCA’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards. DCA will notify the hiring party who must respond to the complaint within 20 days. DCA will also provide information to help you find a lawyer, understand the court process, and more. Download the complaint form at nyc.gov/dca or call 311. If you have questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Right to Sue
You can sue the hiring party in court to seek damages. If you are not timely paid for your work, you have a right to collect double the amount you weren’t paid, damages for retaliation, and payment of attorneys’ fees and costs.
DCA created model contracts that comply with the law that hiring parties and freelance workers can review. Please visit nyc.gov/dca.
Low-Cost Health Insurance
The NYC Human Resources Administration can help you find health insurance and care that meets your needs and budget. Call 311, text CoveredNYC (or SeguroNYC) to 877877, visit nyc.gov/health to find a Health Department Certified Application Counselor for free in-person help, or visit the NY State of Health website at nystateofhealth.ny.gov.
ACCESS NYC is a free service that helps you find out if you may qualify for more than 30 City, state, and federal benefit programs. You can apply online for certain programs through ACCESS NYC. Visit nyc.gov/accessnyc or contact 311 for ACCESS NYC information.
Free Financial Counseling
NYC Financial Empowerment Centers offer free one-on-one professional financial counseling. The service is confidential, and our professional counselors speak multiple languages. Call 311 to schedule an appointment or visit nyc.gov/dca.
Free Tax Preparation
You may qualify for NYC Free Tax Prep services, which include online filing and in-person filing with an IRS certified VITA/TCE volunteer preparer. Call 311 or visit nyc.gov/taxprep for more information.
Education and Training Programs
The City offers free help for jobseekers. Visit nyc.gov/workforce1 or call 311 and ask to find a Workforce1 Career Center.
ActionNYC provides safe, free immigration legal screenings in your community, in your own language. Visit nyc.gov/actionnyc or call 311 and say “ActionNYC.”
The NYC Department of Youth and Community Development’s English Language Program is designed to help the newest New Yorkers learn English. Visit nyc.gov/dycd for more information.
About the DCA's office of Labor Policy & Standards
DCA's Office of Labor Policy & Standards serves as the City's focal point for labor issues and workers in New York City, giving a dedicated voice in City government to the issues facing workers in New York City. The Office enforces key municipal workplace laws, conducts original research, and develops polices that are responsive to an evolving economy and issues affecting workers in New York City, particularly people of color, women and immigrants.