After months of government wrangling that stoked fears and job losses among writers, musicians, translators and other independent contractors in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill that modifies a previous law that attempts to determine just who is a contractor and who is an employee.
The new, modified version of the law takes effect immediately and provides flexibility to such diverse employment fields as freelance writers, musicians, film support crews and visual artists, who now can continue working as independent contractors.
The California Legislature sent the bill on Monday night to Newsom, who signed it Friday.
The bill was originally conceived by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, who wrote the 2019 law known as AB 5. The initial bill was designed to support a 2018 California Supreme Court ruling that classified more workers as employees, which entitled them to benefits and other perks denied to independent contractors. Those protections include a minimum wage, overtime pay, unemployment insurance and health benefits. The bill became law in 2020.
But the Gonzalez bill caused immediate problems for the large freelance and independent contractor community in California. It featured clauses that restricted freelance writers from accepting more than 35 assignments from a single outlet and stopped musicians from regular gigs at venues. It also affected a host of businesses who stopped using California-based freelancers for fear they would be liable for retroactive fees and fines.
The law is still being challenged in court by gig economy giants like Uber and Postmates. They are backing a November ballot initiative, Proposition 22, that would exempt app-based drivers from the new law.
AB 2257, the bill that passed the state legislature Monday night, means freelance writers, photographers, translators and musicians will be among those getting exemptions from AB 5 to continue working as independent contractors, rather than employees.
Among the new features of AB 2257:
- It eliminates the 35-submission cap for freelance writers and photographers. Current rules dictated that California-based freelancers who contribute more than 35 submissions to an outlet per year must be reclassified as an employee.
- Translators, appraisers, and registered foresters are added to the “professional services” exemption. The exemption currently covers graphic designers, travel agents and marketers, among others.
- The law allows music industry workers to continue working as freelancers. The list of exemptions includes recording artists, songwriters, producers, promoters and many others.
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