New York is first US city to give gig workers legal protections

Dive Brief:

  • New York City’s gig workers now have long-awaited pay protections, says JD Supra. The Freelance Isn't Free Act (FIFA) gives independent contractors, freelancers and other on-demand workers some of the safeguards afforded to employees over pay and other rights.
  • Gig workers earning at least $800 over three months are entitled to a written contract and a specified pay date. Employers must pay workers within 30 days or face penalties if there’s no pay due date. Businesses that retaliate against or blacklist workers for exercising their rights face additional fines.
  • FIFA clears the way for lawyers to represent gig workers in legal disputes, according to JD Supra. Employers who lose lawsuits to freelancers over violation claims must pay double damages in addition to the aggrieved worker’s legal fees.

Dive Insight:

FIFA applies to any employer, operating in any location, who hires on-demand workers living in New York.

The new law sets a precedent in employment protections for gig workers: NYC is the first municipality to pass measures protecting them from non-payment and retaliation. But it might not be the last. The Big Apple is among the growing number of U.S. cities and local governments to pass pro-labor laws and ordinances.

New York State previously allowed gig workers to recover breach-of-contract damages, but NYC also gives them legal remedies. Employers should closely monitor this development, as similar laws could emerge across the country. Last week, NYC Uber workers formed a union of sorts, signaling further pro-labor developments.

In an unusual bipartisan effort, federal lawmakers have discussed updating the decades-old Fair Labor Standards Act to cover on-demand workers. They recognize the unyielding growth of this category of workers in the U.S. labor force. But, so far, no action has been taken.

Gig workers, most notably Uber drivers, have long complained about not being paid on time, being underpaid or not getting paid at all. Uber drivers have challenged the company numerous times in court.

Although FIFA protects New York City-based gig workers, employers in general might consider drafting agreements each time they contract with freelancers to minimize the risk of legal claims.

Filed Under: Comp & Benefits Legal
Top image credit: Uber press kit