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What Are Your Rights as a Freelance Worker in California?

Posted on September 28, 2018 | Firm News

You may hear a lot about “employee’s rights” in Los Angeles, but what if you aren’t technically an employee? As flexible and remote work options become more prominent throughout the U.S., the number of people working as freelancers or independent contractors is growing. A freelancer works for him/herself, with no “boss” or employer. With the budding new workforce of freelancers comes new problems and questions – especially when it comes to worker rights. Explore your rights as a freelancer in California with help from an employment attorney.

Employee Rights Generally Don’t Apply

First, recognize the major differences between being an employee and a freelancer in California. The definition of a freelancer in California, as of April 2018, is someone who does not have to obey the control or direction of an employer, who performs work outside the hirer’s main business, and who usually engages in an independently established occupation. Many employers intentionally or unintentionally misclassify employees as freelancers. Make sure you’re a freelance worker in California before studying up on your rights.

If you are in fact a freelancer, employee laws and rights will generally not apply to you. Since you are technically your own boss (or the owner of your own business), no employer must legally give you certain things, such as lunch breaks or overtime pay. It is largely up to you to decide your rules of engagement at work. California’s wage and hour laws, unemployment insurance requirements, and most anti-discrimination laws do not apply to freelancers. You also cannot file a claim for wrongful termination.

Freelancers Still Enjoy Some Protections

You might say goodbye to many employee rights when you become a freelancer, but that doesn’t mean you shed all your protection. State laws that prohibit sexual harassment and other forms of harassment still apply to freelancers. In other words, freelancers still have the right to a work environment that’s free from harassment. The person who uses the independent contractor cannot harass the freelancer in any way, shape, or form. If you do experience harassment in a work capacity as a freelancer, you have a right to file a complaint against the perpetrator. Other rights you have include:

  • The right to work for competing clients: Since you aren’t an employee, your clients can’t make you sign noncompetitive employment agreements. Freelancers have the right to work for competing companies, if they don’t leak confidential information from one company to another.
  • The right to own your intellectual property: Most employees do not own their intellectual property, such as advertising ideas they come up with or design graphics they create. Instead, the employer owns the property by default. As a freelancer, however, you own these properties, unless you sign a contract stating otherwise.
  • The right to legal action after a breach of contract: California laws exist to prevent unfair contract terms and breaches of contract. If a client breaks the terms of a job or partnership agreement, you have the right to file a business dispute against the client. Bringing a lawsuit for breach of contract could pay for your damages.

You may need an employment lawyer’s help understanding and identifying your rights as a freelance worker in California. Freelance and independent work can be lucrative for scheduling flexibility, being your own boss, and making your own rules – but it comes at the expense of several major employee rights. Make sure you know what you’re giving up before you change from employee to freelancer. If you have any questions about your rights and responsibilities as a freelancer, talk to a local attorney. A lawyer can help you protect what rights you do have, and file lawsuits on your behalf, as necessary.