What the Newly-Passed Child Model Labor Bill Means for the Fashion Industry

The Model Alliance achieved a great victory yesterday when the New York State Senate and Assembly unanimously passed legislation to extend child labor laws to cover underage models.

The legislation states that child models will be overseen by the Department of Labor (child models are currently overseen by the Department of Education) and that they will be given provisions for mandatory financial trusts and the presence of chaperones and tutors on set. Violations will result in fines–$1000 for the first offense, and $2,000 and $3,000 for second and third offenses, respectively.

Sara Ziff, founder of the Model Alliance, is ecstatic about the bill. In a statement to us, she had this to say:

"I am thrilled that we are closing the gap in New York State law that left fashion models under 18 without labor protections. At the Model Alliance, we believe that no child should have to sacrifice their education, health or financial security to pursue a modeling career. With most models beginning their careers in their early teens, this legislation is vital to ensuring these young workers are protected under the law."

While the bill is not officially law just yet, we asked our friends at our sister site Above the Law to help us understand the potential implications of the new bill. Editor Elie Mystal tells us that New York State has some pretty tight child labor laws (and added that it was "kind of horrifying" that they didn't already cover child models). What this new bill will do is require those who would hire underage models to fill out more paperwork to do so.

Or, as Mystal explains it: "They can't pull a 15 year old off the street and say, 'Wear this! Here's some lettuce for lunch.' Now they have to say, 'We have a permit, wear this. We've put half of your lettuce in an escrow account that you can get when you turn 18.'"

We wondered if this would send photo shoots and modeling agencies scampering out-of-state to avoid the extra paperwork. Managing editor David Lat says that's certainly possible–but that it's more likely the big model agencies will develop a standard procedure for young models.

"It seems like too much hassle to move outside the state when you can just come up with a bunch of new forms," he added.

"Assuming the people hiring child models can fill out paper work, I don't think this changes the fundamental nature of their business," Mystal said.

Of course, as Fordham Fashion Law Institute Director Susan Scafidi told BuzzFeed, "[The] simplest and easiest response to this law is just hire 18-year-olds,"–especially when casting fashion shows, which are often done at the last minute.

The true test will come at fashion week this September; we will definitely be paying attention to the runways.

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