For many freelancers, having a client like L’Officiel USA would seem like a dream project. The French media brand has a global presence, touts luxury, and covers some of the biggest names in the celebrity world, such Katy Perry, Lana del Ray, and Madonna.
But there’s a major drawback to working with L’Officiel. It has “a pattern of failing to pay freelancers on time or at all,” a statement from New York mayor’s office says.
New York City’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) is suing L’Officiel under the city’s Freelance Isn’t Free law because the company has published articles, photography and illustrations that freelancers provided. Yet attempts by those creative professionals and DCWP to get proper payment haven’t worked, the mayor's statement notes..
“Freelancers are a valued part of New York City’s workforce and their work isn’t free,” said former mayor Bill de Blasio. “We will not allow L’Officiel to get away with reaping the benefits of our talented freelancers without paying them for their hard work. To those who break the law: New York City will hold you accountable,” the statement from the mayor’s office added.
According to the New York Times, the freelancers who found it necessary to file complaints with the city feel ghosted. One writer named Natasha Stagg is owed $1,000 for an article on Elizabeth Wurtzel, also a writer. Stagg decided to go public about the matter on Twitter, hoping it would help pressure the company to pay up.
“Instead of getting paid, I just got a ton of DMs from people who had also not gotten paid,” Stagg told the New York Times.
L’Officiel USA is part of a larger brand network, and problems with payment aren’t limited to creatives in the United States. In a KnowGood Podcast episode that explores the New York case, it’s revealed that freelancers in numerous countries are owed a staggering amount of money.