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SB Nation Executive Tells Fired Freelancers in CA That They Can Work Without Compensation

In an email obtained by SFGATE, SB Nation’s executive director told recently fired freelancers that they could continue to write for the site for free

SB Nation has told hundreds of its recently fired freelance writers in California that they can continue writing for the site — only if they’re fine with working for free.

“You’ve built a devoted following, and we welcome you to keep writing and participating when (and only when) you want,” SB Nation Executive Director John Ness wrote in an email, which was obtained by SFGATE, to the fired freelancers. “Your participation, however, would be totally optional and you would not be compensated for your contributions. We’d classify you as a ‘Community Insider’ on the masthead, and the CMS would remain open to you.”

On Monday, the Vox-owned sports site announced that it would be letting go of “most” of its freelance contractors in California because of a new state employment law, AB 5. The law, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, impacts how independent contractors are classified and has already led to a lawsuit against the state from freelance journalists.

“In 2020, we will move California’s team blogs from our established system with hundreds of contractors to a new one run by a team of new SB Nation employees. In the early weeks and months of 2020, we will end our contracts with most contractors at California brands,” Ness wrote in the Monday announcement. “To comply with this new law, we will not be replacing California contractors with contractors from other states.¬†Rather, we’re encouraging any contractors interested in one of our newly-created full-time or part-time employee positions to apply (you can find them¬†here).”

According to SB Nation’s job listings page, six positions are accepting applications to work on the site’s California fan communities. But in 2019 alone, over 200 freelancers wrote for SB Nation’s California blogs.

“We know many of our California contractors already have other full-time jobs and may not have the bandwidth to apply, but we hope to see many of them join us as employees,” Ness wrote in the Monday announcement.

In the leaked email, Ness acknowledged that it would be a “difficult decision” for freelancers to decide whether they wanted to continue contributing to the California site without pay and that the firings might have been a “shock” for those not following along with the new law.

SB Nation did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.