Creative freelancers like writers, graphic designers, and photographers represent one of the most productive yet marginalized, undervalued, and exploited workforces in America, if not the professional world. The mistreatment of creative freelancers has been an institutionalized human resources disaster and cause of shame for decades.
It is difficult to say exactly where and how this discrimination started, but it feels connected to the fact that being creative is often an isolated and solitary endeavor, and going it alone in our capitalistic society renders one incredibly vulnerable to the predatory nature of economic Darwinism and human greed. Creative freelancers know that given the right circumstances, even the nicest, church-going father of three Boy Scouts with his “World’s Best Dad” coffee mug, straight white teeth, and framed college diploma would screw a lowly, lonely freelancer out of a payment if he could. And he does. All of the time. Freelancers know how awful people act when no one is looking. Don’t ask them to name names.
Freelancing Gets Civilized
Things, finally, are changing. The dark ages of malnourished creatives nursing the free WiFi at soulless coffee shops while begging employers for both work and payment are – hopefully – coming to an end. Being on your own no longer means being manhandled like the snow crab legs at the crappy all-you-can-eat buffet.
In a great leap forward for all things civilized, decent, and painfully obvious, New York City recently passed the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act” which, despite the maddening fact that it actually has to exist at all, is doing heaps of good for creatives. According to the NYC Consumer Affairs site, the new legislation offers the following self-evident and we-can’t-believe-this-is-really-necessary-protections:
The law establishes and enhances protections for freelance workers, specifically the right to:
• A written contract
• Timely and full payment
• Protection from retaliation
The law establishes penalties for violations of these rights, including statutory damages, double damages, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees.
Individual causes of action will be adjudicated in state court.
Where there is evidence of a pattern or practice of violations, the Corporation Counsel may bring civil action to recover a civil penalty of not more than $25,000.
This law also requires OLPS to receive complaints, create a court navigation program, and gather data and report on the effectiveness of the law.
Hooray! Rejoice! Creative freelancers are not alone! Not anymore. The law is finally on our side. There are finally consequences for corrupt employers and cheapskate clients. For creative freelancers, our Braveheart moment is finally here.