Hi everyone. I have been quite busy since January with law work, publishing, writing a book and the list goes on, welcome to the life of trial lawyers, business entrepreneurs and all around go getters. Nevertheless, I have been blogging fashion law on Ladybrillemag.com, although my analysis there is not as comprehensive as on fashionentlaw.com. So, please visit www.ladybrillemag.com for a quick fashion law fix, to stay up to date with my fashion law coverage when you miss me on www.fashionentlaw.com.
It is good to be back. My coverage, especially since my reporting is comprehensive, will most likely be once a week and should I have the extra time, I will be glad to perhaps cover some less pressing but interesting cases. By the way, I hope you all like the new layout, design and colors of fashionentlaw.com. I love design and the opportunity to play with design especially color is always exciting for me.
Okay. Let’s talk about the recent passing of the New York Child Model Laws, a significant milestone for the modeling industry, and what it means for the fashion industry at large and fashion employers. (The bill is pending Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature.)
First, as a former model I am happy with this development. I also know all of my model friends appreciate this overdue shift in the legal landscape for models. I predict the modeling industry will continue to see significant changes in the years ahead and needless to say, I intend to not only be a part of these changes but certainly take the battle to the courtrooms in helping to effectuate these needed changes. It is time and I look forward to what lies ahead.
In the meantime, let’s get back to the recent passage of legislation protecting New York Fashion Child Models.
1. Who introduced the new law/bills that has just passed? On the Senate level, Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein and State Senate Labor Committee Chairwoman Diane Savino; and on the House of Assembly level, Assemblyman Steven Otis. For all legislators, Sara Ziff and her organization Model Alliance was instrumental in working with these legislators to introduce the bills which have now passed in both houses.
2. What was the problem that required an amendment/bills being passed? For being a so called leader in trends and a fashion capital, New York was lacking when it came to protecting child models in the same way it protected other child performers. (According to labor and employment information made available for New York, courtesy PBS documentary, the industry employed 165,000 in 2011, generated 1.5billion in tax revenue and brought in $55billion in sales.) Child models need to be protected both from an education and financial perspective much the same way other child performers are protected. Any industry model can tell you or have heard about stories ranging from sexual abuse of child models to other aggriegious violations. In California and New York, the significant case of fashion designer Jon Anand convicted of rape, among other sex crimes against teen models, is worth referencing.
3. What is the Specific Statute that Regulates the Hiring of Minors in New York? The New York Labor Law sections 130 to 145, 150-154-A. In addition, the New York Arts & Cultural Affairs Law sections 35.03 and 35.05 covered the hiring of minors.
4. What Does the Current Law Provide to Other Child Performers?
- Under the current law, child performers enjoy the luxury of having the responsible person designated to supervise their activity and also make sure they are safe at the work place if they are under 16. It is crazy to think the modeling industry has gone for so long without such protection for our children. The idea that models are to be seen but not heard is one that should be vehemently opposed, especially in today’s 21st century.
- Other child performers also enjoy the legal mandate that their employers provide nurses with pediatric experience for them.
- The current law also mandates that other child employers be afforded teachers and a dedicated space so these child performers stay learning. Children should not have to sacrifice their education just because they want to act, sing etc. For the child model, no one cared about his/her education, at least legally speaking, when the child model was working.
- Under New York law, other child performers are entitled to a healthy and safe environment and this is done by the employer providing safety-based instruction and information to the child performer, his legal guardian/parents and any persons responsible for the child.
- Finally, other child performers enjoyed the requisite mandate that the child performer’s parent, guardian and employer transfer, at a minimum, 15% of the child’s gross earnings into a separate banking account. You can see how this plays out in my analysis on the music end with Hollywood’s Chief Keef /Interscope deal on my blog at AfricaMusicLaw.com. Again, this protection was afforded to other child performers except the Child model performer. It sounds very Cinderella-ish doesn’t it?
5. What Does the New Law Do? Actually it is an easy fix. It simply expanded the current definition of “artistic and creative services” to include “the services of runway and print models.” It also repealed section 35.05 of the New York Arts & Cultural Affairs Law because that section narrowly defined the child performer, which excluded child models.
My sense is that it would have been really tough not to get a unanimous vote on the proposed legislation(s). It is simply a no brainer; however, the modeling industry did not get up to speed with these laws until the push by Sara Ziff and her Model Alliance. So, thanks to Ziff.
6. What do the New Laws Mean for the Fashion Industry & Fashion Employers?
Okay. Now you know what just happened. How does this translate to/and in real terms for you the fashion or entertainment business owner? With the increase in lawsuits in the fashion industry as a whole i.e. from interns to models, designers, distributors et al., you ought to be concerned about protecting your business. How do you do this?
- Follow the law.
- Start with consulting with a fashion attorney to review your business (labor and employment) practices.
- Work closely with child models and their families to be clear the rules are understood and followed. For education, health and safety, and financial trust accounts, you will need to hire the right professionals to make sure they help you comply with the law.
- Work closely with your staff and be sure there is good training and supervisory practices in place. As entrepreneurs, we are only as successful as the teams we hire. If you do not hire the right team, you will waste time dealing with lawsuits, lose sleep and also lose a lot of money. Hire slowly, fire quickly (obviously in accordance with the law when there are clear violations that could seriously jeopardize your company’s financial and legal health).
- Cross reference and check all necessary legal documents you may need when hiring minors. I began working at 15. I was required to get a permit work to work. In New York, when hiring minors, make sure they have their permits and also be sure to be in compliance with applicable statutes as an employer including obtaining your certificate of eligibility to hire child performers/minors, among other things. (NOTE: The law will now require that any and all permits and certificates are kept on file at all times and are open to inspection by school probation officers, the State Board of Education and the Department of Education.)
- Take the safer route i.e. hire adult models. Folks, life is tough as it is. Second, being a business owner is even tougher. If you are a manufacturer or retailer that does not need child models (models under 18) to market/advertise your products, do yourself a legal favor and skip the headache of having to deal with all the rules and compliance issues. Instead, hire adult models. For so many reasons, going with adult models makes sense i.e. diversity, more reflective of today’s woman and the list goes on. If you absolutely have to use child models, then, needless to say, the rules above should be complied with. As one who has also handled, extensively, criminal defense cases, I know it is dangerous grounds that borders criminal penalties/implications when children are involved. We don’t want any of that. Relax but don’t be too relaxed when it comes to dotting your “i’s” and crossing your “t’s” where children are concerned.
Finally, remember fashion is fun! Models want to have as much fun as you the designer or fashion advertiser. It is no fun when they have to worry about basic issues that affects their well being at the expense of increasing your profit margins. The relationship is a two way street and should be.
All the law now requires is what can best be summed up as “mutual respect” or treating another person’s child the way you would want yours treated.
Until the next fashion law analysis, have a great week ahead fashion people!