(Trenton, NJ) -- Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Gordon Johnson to ensure fair treatment of freelance workers was approved Monday by the Senate Labor Committee.
The bill (A-4410) provides that a freelance worker must be paid the compensation earned according to work terms agreed to by the freelance worker and its client, and requires the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to act as a regulatory agency regarding these work agreements.
"Freelance workers aren't free," said Zwicker (D-Mercer/Somerset/Hunterdon/Middlesex). "Freelance workers must be paid the compensation they've earned, and we need to ensure this basic fairness afforded to every other worker. Freelances are a valuable part of our workforce, and they provide many services, but too often they lack basic protections. This bill will ensure they're treated fairly, benefiting our economy and, in the end, everyone."
"Freelance workers are invaluable," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "Many businesses rely on them for all types of work, and that's great, but these workers deserve equal protections under the law. This bill is fairness, plain and simple."
The bill defines "client" as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, association or other business entity or a nonprofit organization contracting with a freelance worker for compensation equal to or greater than $600.
Under the bill, a freelance worker must be paid the compensation earned in accordance with the agreed work terms, which must be reduced to writing. If a freelance worker and client did not agree on a date for payment of compensation earned or a mechanism by which that date is determined, then the freelance worker must be paid the compensation earned not later than 30 days after the completion of the freelance worker's services under the written contract. The bill also provides that the contract must be signed by the freelance worker, kept on file by the client for a period of not less than six years, and made available to the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development upon request.
It is a violation of the bill if a client is found to threaten, intimidate, discipline, harass, deny a work opportunity to or discriminate against a freelance worker, or take any other action that penalizes a freelance worker for, or is reasonably likely to deter a freelance worker from, exercising or attempting to exercise any right provided under this act, or from obtaining a future work opportunity because the freelance worker has done so.
The bill provides that any freelance worker may file with the commissioner a complaint regarding a violation of the provisions of the bill by a client, for an investigation of the complaint and a statement setting the appropriate remedy, if any. The bill provides that the commissioner may bring any legal action necessary, including administrative action, on behalf of any freelance worker that alleges a violation of the provisions of the bill. The commissioner may also assess against the client an amount as liquidated damages, unless the client proves a good faith basis for believing that its violation was in compliance with the provisions of the bill. Liquidated damages must be calculated by the commissioner as no more than 100 percent of the total amount of the underlying contract.
The bill also provides that if the commissioner determines that a client has failed to pay the compensation of its freelance workers, the commissioner shall issue to the client an order directing payment, which will describe particularly the nature of the alleged failure to pay.
Each freelance worker who files a complaint regarding a violation of a provision of this bill will be provided with a description of the anticipated processing of the complaint, including the investigation, case conference, potential civil and criminal penalties, and collection procedures by the commissioner, in addition to a referral to a navigation program established by the commissioner. Each freelance worker and the representative of the freelance worker, if any, will be notified in a timely manner by the commissioner of the following:
- any case conference before it is held, with the opportunity to attend; and
- any award, collection of back compensation, civil penalties, any intent to seek criminal penalties, and, in the event that criminal penalties are sought, a notification of the outcome of prosecution.
The bill provides that any client who does not pay the compensation of all of its freelance workers in accordance with the provisions of this bill, and the officers, agents, or representatives of any client who knowingly permit the client to violate the provisions of this bill, will be guilty of a disorderly persons offense for a first offense, and in the event that any second or subsequent offense occurs within six years of the date of conviction for a prior offense, will be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. A disorderly persons offense is punishable by a term of imprisonment up to six months or a fine not to exceed $1,000, or both. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment up to 18 months or a fine not to exceed $10,000, or both.
The bill also provides that a freelance worker alleging a violation of a provision of the bill may bring an action in any court of competent jurisdiction for certain damages. The remedies provided by the bill with respect to a private action brought by a freelance worker, and any other remedies provided in the bill, may be enforced simultaneously or consecutively so far as not inconsistent with each other.
Finally, the navigation program established by the commissioner under the bill must include assistance from a natural person by phone and electronic mail and shall also include information accessible via an Internet website maintained by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The navigation program must provide the following: general court information and information about procedures under the bill; information about available templates and relevant court forms; general information about classifying persons as employees or freelance workers; information about obtaining translation and interpretation services and other courtroom services; a list of organizations that can be used for the identification of attorneys; and other relevant information, as determined by the commissioner, related to the submission of a complaint by a freelance worker or the commencement of a civil action under the provisions of the bill by a freelance worker.
The bill was approved 52-23-0 by the full Assembly in June, and now awaits final legislative approval by the full Senate.
Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker and leaders from various local faith communities on Sunday called for increased action in the fight against climate change and the effort to protect the environment.
"Good schools and safe neighborhoods for our children are important, but even the best education and the cleanest streets aren't enough if our kids are drinking contaminated water and breathing polluted air," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "Any plan to secure a brighter future for the next generation has to include a focus on the environment."
Concerned citizens from across the 16th Legislative District gathered at the North Branch Reformed Church in Bridgewater to discuss the common obligation among people of different faiths to care for the planet.
"There is no option but unity when it comes to standing up for the earth we share," said Zwicker. "Regardless of race, color or creed, the state of the environment affects us all."
In addition to Christian, Jewish and Muslim houses of worship in Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties, the following organizations sponsored the event: the Raritan Valley chapter of the Citizens' Climate Lobby, Food and Water Watch - New Jersey, GreenFaith, Green Muslims, Jersey Re-news, the New Jersey Audubon Society, the Raritan Headwaters Association, the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.
Lawmaker Partnering with Division of Consumer Affairs to Protect Seniors
Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker will host two fraud prevention seminars in October to educate the public on common scams aimed at senior citizens.
"As our state seeks new ways to crack down on perpetrators who prey on New Jersey's older residents, we also must equip seniors with the tools to recognize and respond to scams appropriately," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "These seminars will help ensure that fewer senior citizens are susceptible to identity theft, online misrepresentation and other common categories of fraud."
The lawmaker will partner with the Division of Consumer Affairs to hold events at senior residential facilities within the 16th Legislative District. A Consumer Affairs representative will be available to discuss various types of fraud, including telemarketing fraud and nuisance robocalls, and provide tips on how seniors can protect themselves.
The first seminar will be held on Monday, Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. at Independence Manor Hunterdon, 188 NJ-31, Flemington, NJ 08822. Parties interested in attending should RSVP directly to Independence Manor by calling 908-788-4893.
The second seminar will be held on Thursday, Oct. 26 at noon at Foothills Acres, 39 East Mountain Road, Hillsborough Township, NJ 08844. Parties interested in attending should RSVP directly to Foothills Acres by calling 908-369-8711.
A job fair Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker hosted Wednesday drew job seekers to Branchburg to explore opportunities with employers in the Central Jersey region.
"In a competitive, 21st-century global economy, navigating the job market can be difficult. I'm glad that my office was able to provide a forum for job seekers and employers to meet face-to-face," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "I was encouraged to see so many people - from recent graduates seeking a foot in the door to the long-term unemployed looking to get back on their feet - come out and explore their options. I'm also grateful to have had the cooperation of local small businesses and other employers, who are the backbone of our economy, in planning and executing the job fair."
More than 50 employers from various sectors discussed available opportunities during the event at Raritan Valley Community College, which attracted more than 100 job seekers.
The job fair follows the lawmaker's recent tours of manufacturing facilities within the 16th Legislative District, experiences he notes have fortified his understanding of the economic needs of businesses and workers alike.
"A job is more than just a means of earning a paycheck. It's also about using your unique blend of knowledge, skills and experience to make a positive contribution to the world," said Zwicker. "The talented men and women from throughout the state who participated in this job fair serve as a reminder that New Jersey's most valuable asset is its workforce."
Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker will host a job fair Wednesday in Branchburg.
"Employers seeking talent should look no further than New Jersey, a state with a well-educated, well-trained workforce made up of men and women who are eager to put their skills and knowledge to use," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "This event will connect people who are searching for a job or want a change in jobs with new opportunities."
The job fair will be held on Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Raritan Valley Community College, located at 118 Lamington Road, Branchburg, NJ 08876. The event will take place in the gymnasium in the Physical Education Building on the main campus of the college. Parking will be available in Lot 2 and throughout the campus.
Members of the public are encouraged to attend the free event and network with local recruiters for opportunities with public and private entities within the Central Jersey region.
Interested parties may contact Joe Forte via email at AsmZwicker[at]njleg.org or by phone at 609-454-3147 with inquiries. Note, however, that no RSVP from job seekers is required for attendance.
A list of participating employers is available here.
Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker is partnering with the Department of Veterans Affairs to organize a Thursday claims clinic for local veterans.
"Veterans and their families have made so many sacrifices for our nation," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "We have an obligation to help them navigate the complex benefits system so that they receive the benefits they've earned."
The Veterans Claims Clinic will be held on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hunterdon County Library, located at 314 NJ-12, Flemington, NJ 08822. Check-in will begin at 9:15 a.m., and light refreshments will be served from 9:15 a.m. to 10 a.m.
The clinic will allow veterans and their dependents to learn about benefits and entitlements, submit a claim for benefits or check the status of a pending VA claim. Lillie Nuble, director of the VA's Newark office, will be available to assist individuals with their VA benefits claims.
"It is my privilege to do all I can to serve these courageous men and women and their families," said Zwicker. "This forum will provide veterans in our area with a personalized, one-on-one consultation about their benefits claims in a convenient location."
Interested parties may contact Joe Forte of Assemblyman Zwicker's office at 732-713-3716 or email@example.com with questions or concerns.