Freelance journalists may soon be exempted from the controversial Assembly Bill 5, which went into effect Jan. 1st. The new law codified the California Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dynamex case, which established an “ABC test” for ascertaining whether workers are misclassified as independent contractors when in fact they should be receiving all the benefits of employment.
The law, introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, has been the target of gig industry behemoths like Postmates, Lyft and Instacart. Freelance journalists, though, are another group that has been embroiled in a fight over AB5. Specifically, the law stipulates that a journalist who produces more than 35 submissions to a single entity should be considered an employee. But that, freelancers say, would effectively kill their career. Media companies, who increasingly can hire reporters and photographers who live and work anywhere, would be less inclined to hire writers from California – or cut them off at the 35-submissions mark.
Gonzalez said she had received extensive feedback from writers, photographers and journalists about how this would impact their ability to make a living, and said changes would be made to accommodate them, while still offering protection against employee misclassification. She indicated that amendments to the law would be introduced that would remove the submission cap. However, contractors still cannot replace employees. Contracts with freelance journalists would also need to expressly indicate the pay rate, payment deadline, individual’s copyrights to the work. Companies also won’t have the right to restrict freelancers from working for more than one outlet, and they can’t mainly perform their work on the business’s premises. Continue reading