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We Doubt We Can Enforce Proposed Law to Help Freelancers, City Agency Says

By Ben Fractenberg | February 29, 2016 4:54pm
 Department of Consumer Affairs Deputy Commissioner Amit Bagga testified at City Hall Monday about a proposed freelancer wage-theft bill, Feb. 29, 2016. 
Freelance Isn't Free Hearing
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CIVIC CENTER — The Department of Consumer Affairs doubts the enforceability of a City Council bill that would crackdown on deadbeat businesses that stiff freelance workers, a deputy commissioner testified on Monday.

The wage-theft act, which was introduced in December by City Councilman Brad Lander, would enable the agency to slap penalties on businesses that fail to pay freelance workers in the agreed upon time in their contract. 

“Of chief concern to us is the bill’s duplication of the preexisting ability freelancers have to bring actions against hiring parties in small claims, civil or state supreme court,” said DCA Deputy Commissioner Amit Bagga during the consumer affairs committee hearing.

“As we would have no practical way to determine which claims or counter-claims are true or false without engaging in intensive fact finding and litigation for which we are not equipped.”

The commissioner added that the agency instead could create a website for freelancers to get needed information, including model contracts.

Lawmakers noted that the agency already enforces the new paid sick leave law and that they expected most freelancer disputes to be relatively straightforward.

“My guess is it’s going to be a relatively small number of cases there’s going to be a serious contract dispute,” Lander said during the hearing.

Currently, 27 out of 51 City Council members have signed on the support the bill, according to the Freelancers Union. 

Several freelancers also testified at the hearing that it was hard for them to make ends meet when companies failed to pay them in a timely manner.

Independent video editor Chris Maue said he started the year with several employers owing him $10,000.

“It means that barring slight savings and credit cards I was very concerned about paying my rent, getting any bills in,” Maue told DNAinfo New York before the hearing. “Chasing that much money, for any amount of time is difficult.”