L’Officiel sued by New York City for not paying photographers and other freelance staff

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French magazine L’Officiel, announced the creation of an American edition of their magazine, L’Officiel USA, in 2017. Since that time coverage has included fashion shows from around the world, restaurants and other businesses, profiles of celebrities such as singer Chaka Khan and writer Elizabeth Wurtzel. And to create much of this content, they’ve made use of freelance creators.

Well, now, L’Officiel USA has been sued by the City of New York, on behalf of freelance photographers, writers, producers, illustrators and more who claim they have either not been paid in a timely manner or in some cases, not paid at all.

According to the New York Times, the City of New York has filed suit against L’Officiel USA in what it describes as “corporate theft from New York City’s industrious creatives”. The suit combines the experiences of twenty-four freelancers in what is reported to be the “first large so-called pattern of practice case in New York”. It was brought forward under a law also enacted, perhaps ironically, in 2017; The Freelance Isn’t Free Act.

Under the law, New York freelancers are allowed to pursue late payments by filing complaints with the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection. Upon receiving the complaint, the department sends a written notice to the company, giving them 20 days to respond with either proof that the freelancer has been paid or a good explanation as to why they haven’t.

Peter Hatch, commissioner of the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection says that this is often enough to get the companies to pay freelancers the money they owe. But they say that when they began sending notices to L’Officiel USA in 2018, they “went silent on us”. Out of 24 complaints cited in the suit, the company failed to respond to 22 of them. So, now they’re taking L’Officiel USA to court.

If such a company has the resources to maintain a luxurious corporate image, it’s all the more unconscionable for them not to pay the actual creators of the content they sell.

– Commissionoer Peter Hatch, Department of Consumer and Worker Protection

The freelancers themselves also felt this feeling of being “ghosted” and when writer Natasha Staff posted on Twitter after being owed $1,000 for an article, but instead of getting paid for calling them out, she said she received a bunch of DMs from other freelancers who had also not been paid. It seems that the main L’Officiel magazine in France is also known for such behaviour with “dozens” of writers, photographers and stylists still chasing down money they’re owed for their work.

Mr Hatch says that the court case isn’t just about pursuing the money owed, which he knows will take some time when going through the court, but to put the entire industry on notice that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

[via New York Times]

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