*Reposted from Gotham Gazette. Written by Samar Khurshid. (photo: NYC Department of Consumer & Worker Protection)*

In 2017, New York City’s “Freelance Isn’t Free” legislation took effect, giving gig workers crucial protections against exploitation and wage theft. State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Harry Bronson are now attempting to replicate the law state-wide with a new bill they introduced on Thursday that would expand state labor law protections to freelancers.

The bill from Gounardes, a Brooklyn Democrat, and Bronson, a Rochester Democrat, would amend state law to give freelancers guaranteed protections including the right to a written contract, timely payment for their work, freedom from retaliation for asserting their rights under the law, and a redressal process that allows workers to file civil complaints against employers who fail to pay them. The law would also establish criminal penalties for employers who do not comply.

“It's really taking on the success of the city model and trying to expand it statewide so that all freelance workers get this protection,” Gounardes said in a phone interview.

The new legislation is in fact stronger than the city’s law. New York City’s law establishes that any contract worth $800 or more, including one that covers $800 worth of services over any 120-day period, must be in writing. Under the bill, the state threshold would be lower, set at $250 or an aggregate of $250 over four months. Also unlike the city’s law, the statewide bill can also potentially lead to criminal action against employers. Otherwise it would impose similar civil penalties including a statutory $250 penalty on employers who are found in violation after they are sued in court, along with double damages, attorney’s fees, and up to $25,000 in fines if they engage in a pattern of violating the law.

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