Wage theft is real for freelancers and now New York City is set to outlaw it

Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

Are you a New York-based freelancer who has been stiffed by a client? You are not alone and now you're going to be protected. 

The New York City Council unanimously passed a bill Thursday to protect the city's freelancers from wage theft. All that's left is for Mayor Bill de Blasio to sign it in to law.

The bill, know as the Freelance Isn't Free Act, comes down hard on employers who hold up payment for freelancers — or skip out on paying them at all. 

Source: Giphy

It also sets up a clearly defined window of time in which freelancers must be paid for their work, without fear of retribution from the employer.

groundswell of frustration from freelancers that led to this bill is in part thanks to Freelancers Union, which campaigned for this change under the "Freelance Isn't Free" flag.

Now that the effort has moved forward in New York, the union is working on getting similar legislation passed in other cities, through petitions

The organization issued a report showing that 71% of the nearly 54 million freelancers in the U.S. say they have had trouble getting paid.

That's thousands of dollars in lost wages for these workers. 

Freelancers were not paid on average $5,968 owed to them in 2014, according to the report. And — given freelancers' relatively low average income — the non-payment took away 13% of their yearly earnings. 

The mayor's office has not definitively said how it will receive the bill, but there is indication that it will be in favor of it's passage.

"This Administration, which worked closely with the City Council on this bill, supports laws that protect all New York workers," Rosemary Boeglin, City Hall spokesperson wrote in an email to and reported by Gothamist. "Every person must be paid on time and treated fairly, whether their work is freelance or not."

Now the challenge — according to Freelancers Union — is to take the cause nationwide.

"New York has shown it's at the forefront of the gig economy and this legislation will serve as a national model for protecting freelance workers everywhere," Laura Brockett Murphy wrote on the Freelancers Union blog.

Don't live in New York? You should still know your rights.

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Anna Bahney

Mic Money writer in Washington DC covering the daily saga of getting and spending. Toss tips my way at abahney@mic.com

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