If you retain freelancers in New York City, pay attention.
As we wrote here, NYC’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act requires a written agreement when retaining an individual independent contractor, if the value of services is $800 or more. The law covers any individual non-employee, including nannies and babysitters. (Loyal readers, please read this earlier post for details.)
The law took effect May 15, 2017, but new rules — effective July 24, 2017 — create additional burdens.
The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs has published final rules implementing the Act. While the purpose of the rules is (supposedly) to clarify the Act, the Rules go much further and create new requirements — some of which may be contrary to federal law.
For example, the Rules prohibit class action waivers and prohibit arbitration agreements. That’s not in the original law. It also may be against federal law. As the Supreme Court recently ruled, state laws that prohibit arbitration of certain types of claims are in violation of the Federal Arbitration Act. (The Supreme Court will soon decide whether class action waivers in employee arbitration agreements are impermissible under the National Labor Relations Act, but that’s an entirely different issue, which requires the court to reconcile two federal laws — as opposed to conflicting federal and state/local laws. Read more here.)
The Rules also provide an absurdly expansive definition of retaliation, including creating an automatic violation for “any person who denies a work opportunity to a freelance worker who exercises or attempts to exercise any right guaranteed under the Freelance Isn’t Free Act ….” Note what’s missing here: the word “because.”
Unless this is a drafting error (which is very possible), the Rules say it’s retaliation if you stop working with a freelancer after the freelancer complains or exercises certain rights — even if the decision to stop using the freelancer had nothing to do with the protected activity. I suspect the Rule will be interpreted as if there is a causation requirement, but Rules really should be drafted more carefully. The whole point of writing Rules that interpret laws is to add clarity, not add confusion!
The Rules also say:
- The Act applies regardless of the worker’s immigration status;
- Retaliation, which is prohibited, can include perceived threats to the worker’s immigration status or work authorization;
- Anyone who retains a nanny or babysitter for at least three years must provide the freelancer with free tickets to Hamilton.
Ok, I made up that last bullet point.
The rest of this is true, though; so if you are using individual freelancers in New York City, pay attention. These requirements apply to businesses retaining freelancers and to individuals retaining freelancers.
© 2017 Todd Lebowitz, posted on WhoIsMyEmployee.com, Exploring Issues of Independent Contractor Misclassification and Joint Employment. All rights reserved.