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  1. #1

    Default Suing for Compensation Under New York's Freelance Isn't Free Act

    My question involves labor and employment law for the state of New York and the city of New York.

    Long story short: I am owed compensation from an employer (fewer than $100 are owed, but the principle of the thing is worth the hassle, and the total work exceeded $1000).

    I know I can file a small claim. But I have questions about how this new NYC law may apply: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dca/down...elance-Law.pdf

    Note that I filled out a w9 during the job, though I do not have a copy. See below about contract.

    1. Does this law apply in small claims court? The important part is 20-933 "Civil Action." Can my small claim include the damages and legal fees referred to here?

    2. Do I have to file a complaint with the Office of Labor Standards before bringing the claim?

    3. I do not have a written contract. I do have tons of texts and emails that prove I worked for the guy, as the scope of work was determined day-to-day. The agreed rate appears on invoices. It would also certainly be possible to obtain affidavits from other employees confirming the rate, and that I performed services on the specific date for which I was never payed. The employer has no proof of payment, as everything was handled in cash with no receipts, and never payed me for my final day's work.

    4. I remain in contact with said employer, though those exchanges are decidedly hostile from his end. He has acknowledged that he owes the money in question by email, but is refusing to pay because he has not received a retrospective invoice for the month of July (which he supposedly wants for tax records). I have notified him that I do not have sufficient info to draft that invoice (which is true), and he is refusing to send me the information (his records of hours worked, etc.). Is there anything else I need to say, do, or establish with him before filing the claim?

    Thanks in advance!!!!!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Suing for Compensation Under New York's Freelance Isn't Free Act

    I don't see anything in the statute that would prevent an independent contractor from filing a $100 claim in small claims court.

    If by "file a complaint with the Office of Labor Standards" you mean filing a complaint for unpaid wages with the state Department of Labor, if you're an independent contractor the money owed to you is not in the form of wages.

    If you have managed your accounting poorly, with no contract, and confusing billing records, you will have a more difficult time proving your case in court. If you failed to keep records of payments, and failed to issue receipts for payments, you will have a more difficult time establishing that you were not paid. If you have an email that acknowledges a $100 balance, you can try to use that email as evidence of the outstanding balance.

    It is not clear how you could know how much money you are owed, but not be able to figure out how to write an invoice for that amount.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Suing for Compensation Under New York's Freelance Isn't Free Act

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
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    It is not clear how you could know how much money you are owed, but not be able to figure out how to write an invoice for that amount.
    This was my thought, too. If you had the records, then you ought to be able to write and send the invoice he is asking for and get paid. Asking for an invoice certainly seems a reasonable request. If you are an independent contractor, it is on you to keep the records you need to support what you are owed. You should not expect your client to provide that for you.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Suing for Compensation Under New York's Freelance Isn't Free Act

    Hey thanks for the responses.

    A few clarifications:

    Of course the statute does not prevent the suit. The question was whether the provisions in the law (20-933) for punitive damages apply in this case, or in small claims generally (where such damages are not usually included).

    The Office of Labor Standards is a city agency - and filing a complaint with that office is specifically referred to as a recourse in the law (see part 20-931, "director" refers to director of OLS).

    Please excuse the confusion over the arrangement and allow me to explain. While formally I was hired as a freelancer, I was effectively a day laborer. Everyone was paid cash at day's end. The invoices were for records only, didn't precede payments, and were estimated. I don't expect that clients provide records of my work in most cases. But here, where the paper trail was really only for the employer's benefit - invoicing was unnecessary from my end. He is considering a lack of a final invoice (which would mostly document money already paid), reason to withhold my last day's payment. I will happily issue an invoice for the amount owed.

    It shouldn't be too hard to prove I was unpaid, as several people witnessed me working that day, which led to a verbal confrontation, which led to my being dismissed from the work site without being paid in full view. They all clearly heard me point out that I was owed $70 for the day as I was leaving. The $70 owed is acknowledged by the employer in an email.

    Thanks again.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Suing for Compensation Under New York's Freelance Isn't Free Act

    I'd provide the invoice requested and give a very short timeframe to pay the specific amount owed to you. That way if and when you go to court, you can show that you didn't hold up the process at all. Regardless of what was done or how it was paid in the past. I can totally understand him wanting to see a "final accounting" before paying you. Again as an IC, it truly is up to you to show what is owed.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Suing for Compensation Under New York's Freelance Isn't Free Act

    OK - I think I can prove the $70 owed. Thank you for responses.

    Anybody have thoughts about questions 1 and 2 in the original post?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Suing for Compensation Under New York's Freelance Isn't Free Act

    They were already answered.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Suing for Compensation Under New York's Freelance Isn't Free Act

    I feel like there was some miscommunication there. Perhaps you missed this part of my response:

    Of course the statute does not prevent the suit. The question was whether the provisions in the law (20-933) for punitive damages apply in this case, or in small claims generally (where such damages are not usually included).

    The Office of Labor Standards is a city agency - and filing a complaint with that office is specifically referred to as a recourse in the law (see part 20-931, "director" refers to director of OLS).


    In question 1, I wasn't asking whether I had the right to sue. I was asking whether damages referred to in the new law would apply in small claims. In question 2, I was asking whether the new law required the measure of reaching out to the director of OLS before taking further steps. These are both matters of interpreting this: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dca/down...elance-Law.pdf, which may differ from New York State law.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Suing for Compensation Under New York's Freelance Isn't Free Act

    Quote Quoting AlexFormayor
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    I feel like there was some miscommunication there. Perhaps you missed this part of my response:

    Of course the statute does not prevent the suit. The question was whether the provisions in the law (20-933) for punitive damages apply in this case, or in small claims generally (where such damages are not usually included).

    The Office of Labor Standards is a city agency - and filing a complaint with that office is specifically referred to as a recourse in the law (see part 20-931, "director" refers to director of OLS).


    In question 1, I wasn't asking whether I had the right to sue. I was asking whether damages referred to in the new law would apply in small claims. In question 2, I was asking whether the new law required the measure of reaching out to the director of OLS before taking further steps. These are both matters of interpreting this: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dca/down...elance-Law.pdf, which may differ from New York State law.
    You apparently can't understand Mr. K's clear and simple response to your second question. To add to said clear and simple response, if you are an IC, then you do not receive wages. Ergo, you cannot file a claim for unpaid wages, with the NY Office of Labor Standards or any other agency that covers employees and wages. (And before you start arguing with me, please note that I train people in employee vs IC law, and have been doing so for a couple of decades. If you decide to argue with me anyway, please state upfront your qualifications and work experience in this area of law.)

  10. #10

    Default Re: Suing for Compensation Under New York's Freelance Isn't Free Act

    I'm not trying to argue with you or assume I'm somehow better qualified. I am on here precisely because I am not a lawyer.

    But I also think no one who has responded here has read any part of the law I linked to and am referring to, and I don't think Mr K answered question 1. Not that he's obliged.

    Also, please note that question 2 does not refer to wages: "Do I have to file a complaint with the Office of Labor Standards before bringing the claim?"

    Also note that the law in question, which deals entirely with freelancers (nicknamed "freelance isn't free act") specifically refers to the recourse of complaining to the NYC OLS. The question is whether this step is required or simply one available recourse.

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