New York Law Requires Chaperones and Certificates on the Catwalk: A New Era In Modeling?

by Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP
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Both houses of the New York State Legislature unanimously passed a bill on June 12, 2013, that should impact significantly the New York fashion modeling industry. The bill, once signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, would amend the Labor Law and Arts and Cultural Affairs law that currently regulate the employment and education of child performers to include runway and print models.

As a result of the amendment of the definition of “artistic and creative services” to include “runway or print model,” entities employing models under the age of 18 will soon be required to obtain certificates of eligibility, provide tutors and chaperones, and limit the work hours of such models. Additionally, employers will be required to provide notice to the New York State Labor Commissioner at least two business days before employing an underage model, as well as to provide certified teachers if a model’s work schedule obstructs his or her educational studies. Furthermore, employers, including agents, are required to set aside at least 15% of a model’s gross earnings in a trust account in the model’s name established by his or her parent or guardian.

Currently, work hour regulations for “child performers” such as young or child actors differ based on age, whether school is in or not in session, and whether the “performance” is live or not, details of which can be found here. These regulations include requiring twelve hours between workdays, limiting the times when and the total number of hours per day a model can work on any day and a school day, and providing for meal and rest periods.

As “child performers,” models themselves under the new law would need to obtain work permits. Work permits would require not only the written consent of a parent or guardian, but also evidence that the model has maintained satisfactory academic performance from their enrolled school.

The impact upon the catwalk or photo shoots in New York may be marked. Under the new amendment, truancy and probation officers, officers of the New York State Board of Education and of the Department of Labor would have the right to enter the places where underage models are employed, at which point they could demand to see both the model’s permit and the entity’s certificate of eligibility. Failure to provide either would serve as prima facie evidence of the illegal employment of a child. Penalties start at $1,000 for the first violation, $2,000 for the second, and $3,000 for three or more violations. The bill also places regulation of the employment of underage models within the purview of the New York State Labor Commissioner. As a result, more requirements and restrictions may follow.

Many have speculated that the bill would result in the absence of underage models from New York Fashion Weeks and photo shoots. The law was advocated for by Model Alliance, a not-for-profit started by Sara Ziff, and was proposed by Senators Diane Savino and Jeffrey Klein. Once signed by Governor Cuomo, it will become effective within thirty days. Thus, although he has not signed the bill as of yet, if he does so before the state legislature begins its summer break at the end of June, it will impact the upcoming September Fashion Week.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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