New York — An amendment to NYC’s Human Rights Law went into effect today to clarify that all freelancers and independent contractors are protected from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Local Law 172, passed by the New York City Council in September 2019, will enable freelancers and independent contractors to turn the NYC Human Rights Commission to address harassment and discrimination based on their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, immigration status, or other protected identity. 

“Freelancers’ rights are human rights,” said Council Member Brad Lander, lead sponsor of the legislation. “But up until now, freelancers have been unfairly cut out of fundamental workplace protections. Today we are celebrating Local Law 172, which extends to freelancers the right to be free from harassment and discrimination in their work, and the protection of the NYC Human Rights Law to hold employers accountable. But we won’t stop here. Together with Freelancers Union, we are building a movement to win the rights and protections that all workers deserve.”

“One-third of New York City’s workforce is freelancing — that’s 1.3 million people,” said Caitlin Pearce of the Freelancers Union. “Unfortunately, too many must go to work feeling unsafe and have no place where they can safely report violations. Research by Freelancers Union has found that nearly 75% of incidents of harassment or discrimination against freelance workers go unreported. We commend Council Member Brad Lander and the New York City Council for passing Local Law 172 to extend needed workplace protections to freelancers. We look forward to collaborating with the City to educate freelancers about how to exercise their rights under the law.”

Freelance work offers the flexibility to develop one’s own schedule, work on different projects, and build new skills and experiences. But for many freelancers, the flexible hours and autonomy comes at a steep cost. Gig economy workers face precarious working conditions, little leverage, and a lack of worker protections. Local Law 172 gives freelancers an avenue to report discrimination and harassment cases to the NYC Commission on Human Rights for investigation and adjudication.

“In an everchanging economy increasingly reliant on independent contractors, this new provision makes clear that all workers are afforded the same basic protections as full-time employees, including rights to reasonable accommodations and protections from sexual harassment and discrimination,” said Carmelyn P. Malalis, Chair and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights. “Workers employed by gig economy technology, such as task apps and remote work, were previously in ambiguous legal territory. Today’s protections affirm that the New York City Human Rights Law protects all employees: full-time, part-time, independent, or freelance worker.”

Local Law 172 builds on the Council’s work in recent years to win protections for gig-economy workers. Recent laws — including the 2018 living wage for for-hire drivers and the 2017 Freelance Isn’t Free Act to ensure freelancers are paid in full and on time — have already secured hundreds of millions of dollars for hard-working New Yorkers.