NYC public advocate seeks greater protections for low-wage independent contractors


New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams released a report calling for changes in the law and further protections for low-wage independent contractors.

The state of New York has an estimated 850,000 low-wage independent contractors who lack protections such as minimum wage, basic insurance and sick leave, according to the report. These workers are also not allowed to form unions.

“Many of these workers meet the standards of an employee but are blatantly misclassified as contractors by employers attempting to drive down wages, rob workers of essential benefits, and avoid paying payroll taxes,” the report states.

It also said app-based companies are classifying workers as contractors despite closely mimicking traditional employer-employee relationships because New York state law does not have legislation that clearly defines an independent contractor.

The report outlined several steps to improve the situation.

“New York City should extend the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act to independent contractors and conduct robust community outreach campaigns to ensure that contractors can benefit from existing protections including the Freelance Isn’t Free Act and Local Law 172,” the report states. “Additionally, it should take commonsense actions to protect workers in the particularly vulnerable ride-hail and delivery sectors.”

The state must also establish narrowly tailored standards that dictate when a worker can be classified as an independent contractor, according to the report. And it should create a portable benefits program for independent contractors.

It also said that New York City has already passed several laws aimed at protecting independent contract workers including the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, local Law 172 of 2019 (which ensures independent contractors are covered under the city’s human resource law) and driver income rules that guarantee minimum per-trip pay for ride-hail drivers.

The full report, “Disrupting the Exploitation Economy: A White Paper on Protecting Workers Classified as Independent Contractors,” is available online.

Williams is also a candidate for governor of the state of New York.