Approximately 600,000 New Jersey residents are working on a freelance basis — a number that's expected to grow as technology continues to shift the state's economy.

Legislation advanced by a second Assembly committee would establish protections to ensure these non-permanent employees aren't cheated out of the compensation they deserve.

The measure, sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-Middlesex, requires that agreed work terms between a freelancer and employer be put in writing.

"If your compensation is greater than $600, then this says you have to be paid within 30 days, and there are penalties if that doesn't occur," Zwicker said.

The bill states a contract must be signed by the freelance worker, kept on file by the client for at least six years, and made available to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development — which would act as the regulatory agency regarding these agreements — upon request.

Employers who violate the provisions of the bill would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense for a first offense, which could come with a fine of up to $1,000. Second or subsequent offenses would be categorized as a crime of the fourth degree, which could be accompanied by a fine of up to $10,000.

Similar rules took effect in New York City in May 2017. Since then, officials said, it's helped workers recoup more than $250,000 in lost wages.

"You hire a creative person to do a job for you, you should pay them," Zwicker said. "That's of course what happens most of the time, but unfortunately there are plenty of cases where that doesn't happen."

Zwicker said it's been estimated that New Jersey's hundreds of thousands of freelance workers contribute $30 billion to the state economy.

Zwicker's bill was approved by the Assembly Labor Committee on March 12, and by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on May 17.

Certain categories of workers would be exempt from the bill's provisions: licensed medical professionals; persons engaged in the practice of law; New Jersey Real Estate Commission licensees; certain sales representatives; and any person subject to a collective bargaining agreement that specifies wages and conditions of employment.

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