Legal Protections to Keep In Mind as a Freelance Worker


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There are many benefits to working as a freelancer as opposed to as an actual employee, such as paying less tax, having greater control over how you work, and choosing your own hours. However, it is important for all freelance workers to know which laws protect them and which ones do not.

It is also important for all workers to know what jobs are classed as freelance work in order not to be exploited by an employer.

Am I a freelance worker?

If you are a freelance worker, then you may have a freelance contract or a consulting contract with one or multiple companies. This stipulates that you agree to do a certain amount of work for the company but that you are not an employee.

While it may seem simple whether you are a freelancer or an employee, certain companies may class you as a freelancer or a contractor rather than an employee in order to save money. Learn whether you are a freelancer, contractor, or employee. There are a number of factors that The Department of Labor has decided to qualify a worker as an employee.

If your work is essential to how the company operates, this might become more relevant. If they specify how you are paid, and if they require you to operate at specific locations and times, then you should be classed as an employee and be entitled to all legal protections that employees receive.

What laws protect me as a freelancer?

There are a number of federal and state laws alike that offer legal protections to freelance workers. Freelancers often move from client to client and have the complete freedom and control to set their own prices and complete the work in a way they see fit. Often, this is mediated by a mutually agreed and signed freelance contract.

Complete control over one’s own work is a legal right for freelancers protected by federal law, allowing them to work how and when they want, including sub-contracting out parts of the job, as long as they meet all agreed deadlines and work quotas.

The Copyright Act of 1967 gives freelance workers legal ownership of anything they create while working for an individual or company unless stipulated otherwise by a legal contract. This means that products, software, and anything else you create as a freelancer legally belongs to you; however, the burden of proof and branding falls on you alone.

What rights do I lose as a freelancer?

While there are multiple laws that keep freelancers protected, there are many legal protections that they waive by choosing not to be an employee. The main loss is protection from discrimination; while regular employees are legally protected from discrimination in the workplace, freelance workers have no such protection.

The Age Discrimination Employment Act, the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) are all in place to prevent an employer from not hiring, firing, or poorly treating an employee due solely to discrimination. In the case of the ADA, this also ensures accommodations are made for employees with disabilities.

Without these legal protections, freelance workers are at the mercy of their clients’ discrimination and must rely instead on legal contracts if they wish to have these rights. Additionally, freelancers are responsible for implementing their own health safety measurements without the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) applying to them.

What taxes matter do freelancers?

As a freelance worker, you are completely responsible for your own taxes and must pay them in 4 or 5 installments throughout the year. However, you are legally entitled to deduct the tax on any expenses that were essential in running your business. These can include equipment and licenses as well as the cost of living such as food expenses and lodgings.

Additionally, freelance workers are required to pay self-employment tax, which currently sits at around 15.3%.

Implementing contracts

As a freelance worker, it is important to compensate for the lack of legal protections with strict contract clauses. As contracts are legally protected and agreed-upon documents, any stipulations that do not directly go against the law must be upheld by both parties.

While clients do not need to provide accommodations for disabled freelancers as they would with employees, a clause in the contract that states that it is the client’s responsibility to provide such accommodations would act as an adequate substitute.

Similarly, you may wish to include a clause that allows you to leave the contract while still receiving payment for the work you have done if the client or any of their associates acts in a discriminatory manner towards you. By implementing an iron-clad contract, you can compensate for the lack of legal protections you receive as a freelance worker.

Photo credit: The feature image has been done by 4 PM Photo.

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