On Monday, October 22, Governor Cuomo signed a law establishing stringent requirement for employers hiring models under 18 years of age. The bill, which was passed by the New York Legislature on June 2013, establishes protections which were unavailable to child Runway and print models under Article 4-A of the New York State Labor Law and Law 152, which only covered child performers such as dancers, actors and musicians. The new law will take effect in 30 days.
The Model Alliance, a non-profit organization advocating for child model rights since 2012, lobbied for increased protections of models under the age of 18, in view of the fact that most models begin their careers at the age of 13 and often jeopardize their education, health and financial security after joining the industry. According to a June report presented at the Independent Democratic Conference, child models have been particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation because they are not covered under standard laws due to their status as independent contractors, and the fact that the modeling market is highly unregulated. Studies show that children typically attend casting and modeling sessions unaccompanied by adults, and are thus more vulnerable to pressure and exploitation.
Prior to the new law, child models in New York were not entitled to the same financial, safety and educational protections as are guaranteed for other child performers. Child models were denied basic labor rights such as minimum wage, compensation for injuries, mandatory breaks and even protections from sexual harassment. Under the new law, employers of child models will be required to acquire a Child Model License, provide nurses with a background in pediatrics to supervise the health of the young models, provide safety-based information and instruction to models, parents or guardians. Furthermore, the law establishes limits on how many hours child models can work and how often they can perform. For example, models cannot work earlier than 5 a.m., and no later than 12:30 a.m. on school nights. Employers cannot interfere with a child model’s time and space to complete their school work. Moreover, employers are required to ensure that an adult is in the room at all times when any model under the age of 16 is working, and the child’s parent or guardian must always receive a detailed work schedule for the child’s work day.
Chaperones will be able to serve as the voice of concern for child models when they are faced with difficult choices, such as requests to pose nude or semi-nude, or to pose in lingerie or in sexually-themed shoots. Employers will be required to transfer fifteen percent (15%) of the child’s gross-earnings into a financial trust established for the children by their parent or guardian. Modeling agencies or found in violation of these provisions may be subject to fines starting at $1,000 for the first violation and up to $3,000 for the third violation. They may also lose the privilege of employing child models if they continue to violate these protections.
Although the new law provides significant new protections, enforcement of the law will be up to the modeling agencies and the models themselves, as there is no specific enforcement mechanism. As a result, lobbying organizations such as the Model Alliance continue to stress that more efforts are necessary to ensure that child models are appropriately protected. Labor rights advocates in the fashion industry are pushing for more protections to address sexual harassment claims as well as greater transparency accounting processes and better access to health care.
If you believe your rights as a model have been breached in some way, please contact the Harman Law Firm, LLP.