AB5 went into effect in California on January 1, 2020. The purpose was to require employers to provide “gig workers” the same benefits that they offer to their employees. At first glance, it sounded like it had the potential to provide protections to freelance writers. Unfortunately, there were some problems with this law.

On September 4, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB2257 to fix some of the problems with AB5. The changes made by AB2257 took effect immediately.

I am a freelance writer who lives in California. When AB5 went into affect, I was scared. The law placed a limit of 35 “content submissions” per year. It was unclear to me whether that meant 35 submissions to one client – or 35 submissions total for the year.

I’ve been working as a freelance writer since 2010. It is how I make my living. It felt like AB5 was going to take away my ability to continue working as a freelance writer.

Fortunately, as I read more about what AB5 included, I realized my fears were unfounded. The reason is because the law makes it clear the conditions in which an employer must classify a “gig worker” as an employee.

1. The worker is free to perform services without the control or direction of the company.

2. The worker is performing work tasks that are outside the usual course of the company’s business activities.

3. The worker is customarily engaged in an independent established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

Based on these rules, the freelance writing work I did was exempt from the effects of AB5. All of my clients could, if required to, prove that I was “performing work tasks that are outside of the usual course of the company’s business activities.” I was one of the lucky ones who was able to continue to earn a living despite AB5.

That wasn’t true for all California writers who are freelancers or contract workers, though. SB Nation wrote that it would end contracts with most of their California-based writers because of the 35 written content submissions part of AB5. A few of those contractors were going to be offered full or part-time employment, but the rest were let go.

The American Society of Journalists and Authors sued the State of California in federal court in an effort to stop AB5 from “violating the Constitution and devastating the careers of freelance journalists such as writers and photographers”. The National Press Photographers Association joined this lawsuit.

On September 4, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB2257 into law. It took effect immediately. The main purpose of this law was to function as a cleanup measure to address criticisms about how AB5 treated contractors and freelancers.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a Democrat who represents California’s District 80, authored AB2257. A quote by her was posted in an press release on her official website about AB2257 becoming a law:

“Workers shouldn’t have to be tied up in litigation for years on end before they can access their basic labor rights,” Assemblywoman Gonzales said. “AB 2257 strikes a balance and continues to provide protections for workers against misclassification that had previously gone unchecked for decades under the old rules.”

AB2257 passed the California Senate floor with 39 AYES and 0 NAYS. It passed the Assembly Floor with 74 AYES and 0 NAYS.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, AB2557 includes major exemptions (from AB5) for the music industry, as well as freelance writers and photographers. The new law eliminates the “35 submissions a year” cap for any publication.

In addition, the new law protects musicians (with some exceptions), translators and interpreters, still photographers, photojournalists, videographers (with some exceptions), photo editors, graphic designers, web designers, tutors, consultants, youth sports coaches, caddies, wedding or event planners and vendors, handypeople, movers, dog walkers and groomers, pool cleaners, insurance underwriters, manufactured housing salespeople, competition judges, landscape architects, performers teaching master classes, foresters, real estate appraisers and home inspectors, and feedback aggregators.

As for me, I’m happy that AB2257 has become a law. I no longer have to worry that my freelance gigs could suddenly end through no fault of my own – but due to the restrictions in AB5. Some of you, who are also freelance workers in California might feel the same way.

Changes to California’s AB5 Protect Freelance Workers is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.

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