SPRINGFIELD – Freelance workers may soon have legal protections requiring them to be paid in a timely manner and transparency measures that are designed to ensure fair labor practices, thanks to an initiative sponsored by State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas.
“Freelance workers deserve the same dignity other workers receive, including being offered the basic respect of timely compensation for their labor,” said Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “This measure would ensure all workers are paid what they are owed quickly so they can support themselves and their loved ones.”
Freelance workers are people hired as independent contractors to provide products or services for a contracting entity, earning at least $500 for their labor. Because they have a different contract than salaried or hourly workers, the entities that hire them are not held to the same legal requirements as with other employees. This has led to many freelance workers being paid much later for their work than they had been promised, as well as being offered to take a pay cut to get any wages for their labor sooner.
Too often, when disputes over pay arises, freelancers don’t have the time or resources to litigate a payment and go unpaid. According to a 2019 study, 74% of freelancers have reported experiencing late or non-payment, and freelancers lose, on average, $5,968 a year to wage theft.
House Bill 1122, or the Freelance Worker Protection Act, would require contracting entities to pay freelance workers according to the terms stated in their contract. If no such terms exist, then payment shall occur no later than 30 days after they fulfill their obligations under a contract. The contracting entity would also be prohibited from asking freelancers to accept less pay in exchange for being compensated quicker.
Additionally, the initiative would give the Illinois Department of Labor the authority to create new rules on the formation of freelance labor contracts and facilitate an organized complaint procedure to resolve disputes between aggrieved freelance workers and contracting entities It would also require IDOL to create and distribute free model contracts so that freelancers and contracting entities can model their own practice on IDOL-approved examples.
“Freelance workers are workers, entitled to full payment for their work,” said State Representative Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago). “Considering the majority of freelancers report that they live ‘paycheck to paycheck,’ we need these statutory protections to help people stay afloat.”
“There are more freelancers than ever, doing work that is increasingly vital to the economy. But these workers lack basic protections ensuring that they are paid fairly and on time for their labor. We are excited to see Illinois lead on this issue by advancing the Freelance Worker Protection Act,” said Eric Thurm, campaign coordinator at the National Writers Union and a member of the steering committee of the Freelance Solidarity Project. “We are grateful to Senator Pacione-Zayas and our House sponsor Representative Guzzardi for championing this bill. Their fight in support of FWPA will help set national standards for how hundreds of thousands of freelancers are treated, and begin to ensure that these workers get the respect and support they deserve.”
House Bill 1122 passed the Senate on Thursday.