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NYC extends Human Rights Law to freelancers, group gains protections against discrimination, harassment

September 20, 2019

New York City’s Human Rights Law is being expanded to include freelancers and independent contractors following the New York City Council’s vote on Sept. 12 to approve bill 136-A. The move gives freelancers employment safeguards such as protections against sexual harassment and discrimination based on race, religion and age.

“This is huge news for NYC’s 1.3 million independent workers, who may face harassment and discrimination in the workplace with fewer protections or paths for recourse than traditional employees,” according to a post by Caitlin Pearce, executive director of Freelancers Union.

The law, which takes effect in three months, allows freelancers to file complaints with the city’s Commission on Human Rights.

Pearce wrote that Freelancers Union research shows 75% of discriminatory incidents go unreported.

“Closing the loophole that left independent contractors without sufficient recourse for discrimination or harassment builds on the Council’s ambitious work to win protections for gig-economy workers,” said New York City Council Member Brad Lander, who sponsored the law.

Lander said 136-A follows up other laws in New York, including the 2018 living wage for for-hire drives and the 2017 Freelance Isn’t Free Act. He said those laws have secured hundreds of millions of dollars for New York freelancers.

In addition, 136-A impacts the size of business covered under the Human Rights Law by expanding the amount of time a company might qualify under the law.

Employers with fewer than four employees are exempt under the law. However, if a discriminatory act takes place, an employer with less than four employees would be not be exempted if he or she employed four people at any time within the 12 months before the discriminatory act took place.

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