By KEVIN LIMITI

A City Council committee passed a bill on Thursday that would expand anti-discrimination and sexual harassment protections in the New York City Human Rights Law to include freelance workers and independent contractors.

Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander, member of the Committee on Civil and Human Rights, called the move “a major step forward” at a press conference on the steps of City Hall surrounded by contractors and freelance workers including representatives  of the National Writers Union and the Freelancers Union.

“Sometimes people like the freedom and flexibility that being an independent contractor brings, but nobody likes having their rights taken away,” Lander said. “It is unconscionable that in New York City where we pride ourselves on our diversity, on protected civil rights, on protecting the rights of workers, that we have not extended those protections.”

Angela Ivana suffered what Lander called, “blatant, out-and-out racism” which was not protected under the old human rights law.

Ivana, who works as a freelance beauty professional said she experienced race-based discrimination from her agency.

“I’m proud NYC is staying ahead of the curve by recognizing that the future of work is changing.,” Ivana said in a statement. “Expanding these protections to freelancers gives me hope for the future.”

Independent contractors and freelance workers don’t usually get health insurance, union rights, or unemployment insurance.

According to a freelance data tracker, Fiverr, New York is the number one city in the country for freelancers. In 2018, there were 559,000 freelance workers here who earned $25 billion.

In 2017, the City Council passed the Freelance Isn’t Free Act which provided legal protections for freelancers against employee retaliation, delayed payments, and wage theft.

Carolina Salas Saunders, a freelance marketer, was visibly emotional as she got up to the podium and said that she was a victim of sexual assault.

“I am grateful to Council Member Brad Lander and NYC leadership for passing this much needed Bill that protects and empowers freelancers like myself, to report and challenge the harassment and discrimination often found in oppressive work cultures,”she said.

Photo by Kevin Limiti