FIFA, which was passed into law last October and took effect Monday, May 15th, requires all freelance services worth at least a combined $800 over the previous 120 days to be memorialized as written agreements. Except for sales representatives, lawyers, and licensed medical professionals, FIFA covers anyone “hired or retained as an independent contractor . . . to provide services in exchange for compensation.” That includes your friendly neighborhood Uber driver, Postmates courier, and Airbnb concierge.
For now, the agreements must include the freelancer and hiring party’s names and addresses; itemize and value the freelancer’s services to be provided; and specify the rate, method, and timing of payment to the freelancer for those services. Other requirements may be added at the whim of New York City’s newly created Office of Labor Policy & Standards (OLPS). Hiring parties that violate these written contract requirements and are sued by their freelancers must pay $250 and the freelancer’s costs and reasonable attorney’s fees, and FIFA prohibits retaliation against freelancers that seek relief under this, or any other provision, of the Act.
FIFA is about more than just scribbling terms onto a piece of paper and imposes even steeper penalties on hiring parties that breach their ends of the bargain. If a hiring party fails to compensate freelancers according to the agreed-upon rate, method, and timing of payment following “completion of services,” or attempts to underpay freelancers after they have “commenced performance” of the agreed-upon services, the freelancer has up to six years to file a civil suit and obtain injunctive relief, double damages, and costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
Instead of going directly to court, freelancers may file an investigative complaint and pass the torch to the OLPS Director, which may then take civil action. When there is “reasonable cause” to believe that hiring parties have established a pattern or practice of violating the Act, FIFA empowers New York City Corporation Counsel to file a lawsuit on its own initiative and seek up to $25,000 in civil penalties.