New York State Legislature Seeks to Expand Employee Rights to Freelancers Statewide

UPDATE: Governor Hochul signed this bill on November 22, 2023, which will take effect 180 days from signing.

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Earlier this month, both chambers of New York’s legislature approved bills that would provide employment-based protections to freelance workers, including the ability to file claims with the State Department of Labor.  New York City enacted a similar law in 2017 that is enforced by the City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection.  New York City enacted its version of the Freelance Isn’t Free Act in 2016, which took effect in May 2017. 

The proposed state bill would require:

(1) a written contract if the freelance work is worth at least $800, including multiple small projects over a 120-day period;

(2) that payment for services be made timely and in full; and

(3) that freelance workers be free of retaliation for exercising their rights under the bill. 

This bill would also apply New York’s robust system of penalties for violations of these rights, including statutory damages, double damages, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees.

The support in this legislature was overwhelming, with the State Senate passing Senate Bill 5026 by a vote of 43 to 15 on June 1, and the Assembly passing Assembly Bill 6040 by a vote of 144 to 1 on June 8. In June of last year, the state legislature passed a seemingly identical measure, which Governor Hochul ultimately vetoed in December 2022.

The current version of the state-wide Freelance Isn’t Free Act is again slated to be delivered to Governor Hochul before the end of the year.  It is unclear if she will veto this bill again. While veto overrides have been exceedingly rare in New York State history, the overwhelming support for the passage of this bill in both houses makes it worth noting that the state legislature can override a veto with a two-thirds vote. 

Littler will continue to track developments on this pending item. 

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.