The New Catwalk Experience: New York Tightens Laws for Underage Models


Last week, New York toughened its child labor law protections for models under the age of 18 by passing New York Senate Bill No. 5486. Signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the law is set to go into effect within the next month and will significantly impact designers in preparing for New York Fashion Week 2014. The law will be enforced by the Department of Labor and expands the definition of child performers to include the services of runway and print models. The underage models will now be governed by the same labor protections afforded to child actors (see prior blog article here).

Before the passing, young models were regulated by the Department of Education with minimal protections such as work hour limitations.

The new requirements include:

  • Underage models cannot work earlier than 5 A.M., later than 10 P.M. on school nights, or later than 12:30 A.M. on non-school nights. In addition, the models may not return to work less than 12 hours after they leave.
  • An on-site pediatric nurse must be accessible at all times.
  • Models under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult chaperone at all times.
  • Parents or guardians of underage models must create a trust account fund whereby employers will transfer a minimum of 15% of the child’s gross earnings.
  • Employers must set aside time and a dedicated space for instruction for the child. In some cases, they will be required to provide teachers as well.
  • Paperwork and record maintenance by employers.
  • Parents and guardians must receive a detailed work schedule on the days that the young models work

Employers who violate the rule will be subject to sanctions between $1,000 - $3,000.

Reactions to the law have been largely positive. “I know all too well that, until now, underage models have worked with very few legal protections in New York.... When I started modeling [at the age of 15], I traveled to many places alone, without a chaperone, or any real legal right. I’m so glad that’s changing for children – and they are children – in the future,” said model Coco Rocha at the press conference announcing the law’s passing.

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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