California leads the way with Freelance Worker Protection Act. Will other US states follow suit?
California’s Senate Bill 988, also known as the Freelance Worker Protection Act, proposes groundbreaking measures to safeguard a freelancer’s right to get paid on time and combat unfair treatment. While this news originates from the US, it carries significant implications for the global freelancer economy.
Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has introduced Senate Bill 988 to safeguard California’s growing freelance workforce. This landmark legislation offers crucial protections, including mandatory contracts, timely payments, and double damages for non-payment.
“The National Writers Union and the coalition of freelance writers, media workers, photographers, graphic artists, authors and others, want to thank Senator Wiener, and the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council for advancing the needed protections that freelance workers deserve,” said Larry Goldbetter, President of the National Writers Union.
“We are one-third of the workforce, yet over 70% of freelancers experience late payment or no payment at all. After having Freelance Isn’t Free bills signed into law in New York State, Illinois and Los Angeles in 2023, we are taking our campaign statewide, to Sacramento.”
Goldbetter continued, “Freelance Isn’t Free works! Under the NYC law, freelancers have recovered more than $2.5 million in unpaid invoices, and currently, 41 freelancers are collecting $275,000, double damages, from a publisher with a pattern and practice of non-payment and late payment. This is a solid floor from which to build out the full set of labour protections that freelance workers deserve, statewide and nationally.”
What does the bill offer?
- Mandatory Contracts: Freelancers performing over $250 (£199) of work within four months are entitled to a contract outlining project details, pay rate, and payment method.
- 30-Day Payment: Clients must pay freelancers within 30 days of completing work unless otherwise agreed in the contract.
- Protection from Payment Pressure: Clients cannot coerce freelancers to accept lower pay for faster payment.
- Anti-Retaliation: Clients are prohibited from retaliating against freelancers who pursue rightful payments.
- Double Damages: Freelancers facing non-payment receive double the agreed-upon compensation, plus legal fees.
Why is this relevant for UK freelancers?
While the bill applies specifically to California, it serves as a powerful precedent and highlights the growing need for more decisive action when it comes to freelancer payments. Also, non-US freelancers may presume that laws impacting freelancers in one US state may be the same in another. It all depends on where your US client is operating from and you can always request payment terms on your terms!
Freelancing is booming, with millions contributing significantly to the economy. Yet, many lack basic protections, and understanding of their rights, facing late or unpaid invoices, and struggling without written contracts. In the UK, you can make a statutory demand on a client who is not paying you as agreed, but this ends up with the freelancer doing all the legwork.
What can UK freelancers do?
- Stay informed: Follow news on The Freelance Informer and advocacy groups like the Freelancers Union and IPSE to stay updated on UK and US legislative developments.
- Demand fair treatment: Advocate for clear contracts, timely payments, and respect for your rights.
- Support legislative efforts: Contact your local MP and express your support for stronger legal rights for freelancers.
The California bill demonstrates a positive step towards a fairer future for freelancers. While the UK landscape differs, it serves as a beacon of hope and a call to action should you be engaged by US clients.