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Hey Upwork...what do you do with the money if someone doesn't verify?

tlsanders
Community Guru

The verification email I received said I won't be able to withdrawn funds if I don't verify by the deadline. So, what's the system? If someone never verified, what would happen to the hundreds or thousands of dollars they've earned that you were holding a the time you cut off their ability to withdraw?

41 REPLIES 41
tlsanders
Community Guru

Avery, I have noticed that you've been steadily responding in pretty much every other thread here in the hour or so since I posted this question. My deadline is less than 24 hours away, so I would greatly appreciate a response as soon as possible.

Thanks for the gentle follow up and I'm sorry for the delay. I respond to each post/message by the order of which I have received them, and I apologise if it took some time to get to your post. 


It looks like you are being asked to complete a verification for the Identity Verification Badge. If you don't verify your account by the deadline set, your account will be put on hold, and you will not be able to withdraw your earnings on Upwork.


I will have to look into this further since Upwork is not a financial institution, funds cannot be held in your Upwork account for more than 180-days. I would assume there is a process for this, but I will have to check this with the team. 


~ Avery
Upwork

Thank you, Avery. A quick follow-up would be appreciated, since I have only a few hours left to decide how to proceed. 

Hi Tiffany,

 

Apologies for the delay. If a freelancer fails to verify their account, their ability to withdraw their funds will be put on hold until they do verify. If they never verify, any earnings left on the freelancer's account for more than 180 days will automatically revert back to the clients.

~ Valeria
Upwork

Valeria K wrote:

Hi Tiffany,

 

Apologies for the delay. If a freelancer fails to verify their account, their ability to withdraw their funds will be put on hold until they do verify. If they never verify, any earnings left on the freelancer's account for more than 180 days will automatically revert back to the clients.


Thanks for the response, Valeria.

 

A couple of follow-up questions.

 

How do you handle the fact that clients lose the right to use work they have paid for and may already have invested funds in printing and disseminating?

 

And, where in the TOS have we agreed that money that we have earned and is not in dispute may be confiscated in connection with after-requested activities?

This.  Just THIS -

 

"And, where in the TOS have we agreed that money that we have earned and is not in dispute may be confiscated in connection with after-requested activities?"

re: "How do you handle the fact that clients lose the right to use work they have paid for and may already have invested funds in printing and disseminating?"

 

Screen Shot 2019-09-06 at 12.43.00 PM.png

 

 

A client's ability to use work he has paid for is not impacted by the state of a freelancer's compliance with identity verification policies.

 

re: "And, where in the TOS have we agreed that money that we have earned and is not in dispute may be confiscated in connection with after-requested activities?"

 

Where in the ToS does it say Upwork can't do what it is doing?

See also: "Possession is nine tenths of the law."


Preston H wrote:

re: "How do you handle the fact that clients lose the right to use work they have paid for and may already have invested funds in printing and disseminating?"

 

Screen Shot 2019-09-06 at 12.43.00 PM.png

 

 

A client's ability to use work he has paid for is not impacted by the state of a freelancer's compliance with identity verification policies.

 

Preston, again, you're just wrong. Upwork's default contract clearly states that the client takes ownership of work that has been paid for in full. When Upwork confiscates the money and returns it to the client, that provision is not met, and the client has not purchased the work. 

 

A client could advance the argument you made, but even if it was successful, the court would likely order the client to pay the freelancer...which it couldn't do without violating Upwork's TOS. 

 

re: "And, where in the TOS have we agreed that money that we have earned and is not in dispute may be confiscated in connection with after-requested activities?"

 

Where in the ToS does it say Upwork can't do what it is doing?

See also: "Possession is nine tenths of the law."


That's a trite thing that people who don't understand the law say. When the person saying it is the person wrongly withholding possession of something that legally belongs to someone else, it generally ends in a judgment, perhaps including punitive damages. Or jail, depending on the circumstances. 

You believe that "the law" has more applicability than I do.

 

That is understandable, given our different backgrounds.

 

You have a law degree and have worked heavily in the legal arena.

I have a science degree and have worked heavily in science and programming.

 

I work in a science lab, and I can assure that laws written by human beings using pens and word processors have very little applicability to anything we do here. Although we obey human-written laws, that does not change the fact that 99.99% of what we do has its basis elsewhere.

 

And when I do programming and create source code, "the law" as you understand it is likewise inapplicable to nearly everything I do.

 

Upwork is a software system and a company, and ultimately the way it operates is based on source code created by computer programmers, and policies handed down by management. Upwork has lawyers that advise it. And those lawyers no doubt consider "the law" when they advise Upwork. But ultimately, the Upwork that we (as users) encounter is governed by source code and corporate policies, which may or may not comport with any one individual's opinions about how "the law" should be applied.

 

You have a strong belief that Upwork should be governed by "the laws" of one jurisdiction or another.

 

I view Upwork as its own jurisdiction. I think that the legal opinions of people outside of Upwork are not applicable to how I interact with Upwork.

 

None of which means you "are wrong." But you DO see things from a very different perspective.


Preston H wrote:

 

None of which means you "are wrong." But you DO see things from a very different perspective.


Preston. Are you QUITE sure that you want to get in the middle of this?

re: "Are you QUITE sure that you want to get in the middle of this?"

 

I hope I'm not "in the middle" of anything.

 

I am on the side of the original poster. If she has earned money, I don't want her to be restricted from withdrawing those earnings.

 

I have only offered some perspectives and answers to her questions in order to be helpful - to the original poster and to anybody else who reads this thread.

Just wondering why not simply complete the verification process and withdraw the funds? Mine only took a few minutes. 


Julie J wrote:

Just wondering why not simply complete the verification process and withdraw the funds? Mine only took a few minutes. 


There's a principle in play. More than one, actually.

The OP's point is that the funds are NOT Upwork's to keep, should she decide not to trust a third party organization with her information.  And should they return the funds to the client, the client has not truly paid for the work, thus does not have the right to use it, and if it has been published, there is potentially a world of hurt for the client.


Julie J wrote:

Just wondering why not simply complete the verification process and withdraw the funds? Mine only took a few minutes. 


Julie, I don't personally have a problem verifying my identity. But, I'm always conscious of the fact that not everyone's life is as easy as mine. 

 

I live in the United States. I have clear and recognizable identification, and an easy means of uploading it. I have a good internet connection that will let me easily video chat. And, if for whatever reason I chose not to verify, I could afford to walk away from the roughly $1,000 in earned income sitting in my Upwork account. 

 

Some or all of those things are not true for quite a few Upwork freelancers. Through a combination of my natural way of being in the world and various aspects of my background (including running a welfare advocacy clinic, working as an advocate for victim's of domestic violence, working for legal aid, working as a public defender, and working as director of marketing for one of the nation's leading consumer financial protection lawyers several years ago), I have a strong inclination to look not just at how an issue impacts me, but how it impacts the many people who do not have my resources.

@Tiffany I literally wish I could give you a hug of gratitude for all your efforts, caring about those far beyond you, for which this problem is a very huge one.

 

Especially in some countries like those in Africa, The verification process is painfully hard. Most government-issued IDs are handwritten or in local languages. No acceptable government-issued ID exists for freelancers in most cities of those countries (for example in my country, It's only in the capital city which can you get a printed/not hand-written residence ID).

 

And when freelancers try to verify using school IDs, work IDs, bank statements, or other documents containing full information, NONE is accepted by Upwork at all. even if you ask to provide a combination of all those. One last resort would be to get a passport issued. which would require a long queue of bureaucracy that would literally take more than 4-6 months long and is at least in my country for example also requires to go to the capital city and issue from there.

 

So it's a very painful thing that Upwork wouldn't do the easiest of things by their part to help those, those that want to work hard and are willing to bring any information on hand to get themselves verified. let alone depriving the money they have earned.

 

I am writing this because I am seeing many able professionals struggle to get past this unnecessarily hard stage.

For what it is worth, the question of whether or not a client owns work that she has paid for, if money later comes back to her, was discussed previously in 3-page thread here:

 

Rights to completed work

 

Although keep in mind that the original poster in this thread AND the thread I linked to both are referring to "rights" to completed work, which is NOT something I mentioned when I referred to a client's ability to use work he has paid for.


I did not use the word "ability" by accident.

 

If a client has paid me to write source code, and I have delivered that source code the client... Then the client's ability to use that source code in their overall information system is not impacted by my interactions with Upwork's identify verification practices.

Preston, it is definitely true that we have different frames of reference. The thing is, whether you see Upwork as its own kingdom or not, it is in fact subject to law, and all the more so now that it is publicly traded. It's subject to individual judgments, class action judgments, fines, and other sanctions--some of which could be crippling to a company that isn't yet profitable. It's not especially helpful to anyone for you to suggest that Upwork needn't follow the law.

re: "It's not especially helpful to anyone for you to suggest that Upwork needn't follow the law."

 

That is not something that I suggested.

 

I said that I do not base my interactions with Upwork on the legal opinions of people outside of Upwork.

 

I choose to assume that the lawyers who advise Upwork have adequately guided it to follow the law, to such an extent that it is unnecessary for me to consider the legal opinions of people who are not attorneys in the employ of Upwork.

 

To be very clear: I believe that Upwork follows the law.

 

re: "whether you see Upwork as its own kingdom or not"

 

Not my exact words... But in a sense, yes, that is how I believe we should view and interact with Upwork.

Section 6.3 of the ToS says the following which would seem to be relevant to this situation.  In particular see "a" a bit more than mid-way through. 

 

 

'Notwithstanding any other provision of the Terms of Service or the Escrow Instructions, and except as prohibited by applicable law, if we believe, in our sole discretion, that you have violated the conditions and restrictions of the Site or the Terms of Service, including by committing or attempting to commit fraud or other illicit acts on or through the Site, Upwork Escrow may refuse to process or may hold the disbursement of the Freelancer Fees and take such other actions with respect to the Escrow Account as we deem appropriate in our sole discretion and in accordance with applicable law. Without limiting the foregoing, Upwork Escrow, in its sole discretion and to the extent permitted by applicable law, may also refuse to process or may hold the disbursement of the Freelancer Fees or any other amounts and offset amounts owed to us if: (a) we require additional information, such as Freelancer’s tax information, government-issued identification or other proof of identity, address, or date of birth; (b) we have reason to believe the Freelancer Fees may be subject to dispute or chargeback; (c) we suspect fraud; (d) we believe there are reasonable grounds for insecurity with respect to the performance of obligations under this Agreement or other Terms of Service; or (e) we deem it necessary in connection with any investigation or required by applicable law. If, after investigation, we determine that the hold on the disbursement of the Freelancer Fees is no longer necessary, Upwork Escrow will release such hold as soon as practicable.

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