New York City Clarifies Extension of Employment Discrimination Protections to Independent Contractors and Freelancers

February 24, 2020

As we previously reported, on January 11, 2020, changes to the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) went into effect that extended the City’s employment discrimination protections and standards to freelancers and independent contractors.  The New York City Commission on Human Rights (“NYCCHR”) has now published a report that clarifies questions and concerns about the scope of the new law and the duties of employers going forward.

The Rights of Independent Contractors and Freelancers

Under the NYCHRL, there is no difference between freelancers and independent contractors and both groups receive the same protections. All independent contractors and freelancers are protected from employment discrimination and harassment. Independent contractors and freelancers also have the right to receive reasonable accommodations for needs related to disabilities, pregnancy, lactation, religious observances, and their status as victims of domestic violence, sexual offenses, or stalking.

Duties of Employers

New York City employers who employ 15 or more employees, are required to have their freelancers and independent contractors complete annual sexual harassment prevention training if the freelancers and independent contractors (i) work for more than 80 hours in a calendar year, and (ii) for at least 90 days. Individuals who must be trained do not need to take training at each workplace where they work over the course of a year. Instead, independent contractors and freelancers may provide proof of completion of one sexual harassment prevention training to their various workplaces.  

Employers will also be found liable for the discriminatory acts committed by independent contractors and freelancers if the conduct occurred in the course of the independent contractor’s or freelancer’s work for the employer if the employer had actual knowledge of the discriminatory behavior and failed to take preventative action. 

The NYCCHR report also notes that “Apps” and other online platforms may be liable if they directly engage in discrimination against an independent contractor who uses their platform. Apps and platforms may also be liable if a customer who uses their application to hire an independent contractor engages in unlawful discrimination if the app or platform knew, or should have known, about the discrimination and failed to take action. 


The new report confirms that employers must provide independent contractors and freelancers with the same rights and training afforded to their other employees. Employers should assume that all laws relating hiring. Freelancers and independent contractors should be provided with sexual harassment training and provided with handbooks and policies that outline their rights under the law.

These materials were prepared by Putney, Twombly, Hall & Hirson LLP prior to their combination with Bond, Schoeneck & King for informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice or advertisement of legal services. Transmission of the information is not confidential and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or an attorney-client privileged communication. You should not act upon any of the information contained in these materials without seeking the advice of your own professional legal counsel.