Bad news for ‘professional’ bloggers

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As a blogger, I’m one in a million. Or perhaps a billion.

Back in 2013, I started a personal blog in order to promote my memoir, Truth Be Told: Adam Becomes Audrey. Two years later, I launched my business, In Brief Legal Writing Services, and created this site in order to establish a digital (virtual presence). I also started this blog in order to promote it.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

As it stands, I’m glad I did. I happen to enjoy writing about the law, animal advocacy and related issues.

Having said that, I never harbored any illusions about getting thousands of hits or attracting tons of readers. Writing a blog that generates that sort of interest requires expertise that I simply don’t have, money I don’t want to spend (for SEO classes and so forth) and time that I can’t afford to waste. After all, I am busy working for a living…

Which brings me to my point. Finally.

Not too long ago, a New York court dealt a big blow to “professional bloggers.” Specifically, Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department of the State of New York ruled that a freelance writer and blogger is not eligible for unemployment benefits.

As forbes.com reports, “the case involved Gregory Mitchell, a freelance writer, who entered into a contract in 2010 with The Nation to author regular blog posts for the company’s website.”

Everything was fine for a few years. But as we all know, nothing lasts forever. And in 2014, management at The Nation decided not to renew Mitchell’s contract. That’s when he applied for unemployment benefits.

At first, state officials tasked with determining who is eligible for said benefits sided with Mitchell, saying that he was actually an employee. Representatives for The Nation disagreed and pursued an appeal.

Needless to say, a legal battle ensued with the outcome hinging on a key issue. Was Mitchell an employee in the legal sense, or an independent contractor?

With the shift in the economy since the Great Recession, making the distinction has become even more difficult. As a result, the government and courts have established specific criteria to differentiate between traditional and “gig economy” workers.

These are include varying forms of control and the relationship between the “employer” and “employee.”

Based on its assessment using these criteria, the court determined that Mitchell is actually an independent contractor. In New York, independent contractors “are not covered under the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Law.” In other words, they cannot claim unemployment benefits.

As the attorney that represented The Nation in the case told forbes.com, “This case takes a major step in clarifying how rules developed to deal with traditional employment relationships apply to the rapidly changing world of modern journalism and its reliance on bloggers and other more casual employment relationships.”

For now, that seems to be the end of the story… at least in this case. But as the “gig economy” continues to grow, the question remains whether other courts will follow New York’s lead… or not.

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2 thoughts on “Bad news for ‘professional’ bloggers

  1. As a blogger for several online venues it never crossed my mi d to receive unemployment if my services were no longer necessary. Food for thought. Maybe the benefit of being on a bigger stage to launch your own blog may be enough to forgo thinking unemployment is due. As the article says we will wait and see if other states follow NY’s lead. Thx Alexandra

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    1. Yep! I thought it was an interesting case. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts…

      Like

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