Child Labor Laws Soon to Apply to Models Under 18

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Coco Rocha and Sara Ziff. Photo: Wendell Teodoro/Getty Images

As predicted, a bill proposing that models under 18 be protected by the same labor laws that apply to child actors, singers, and performers passed both houses of New York State legislature yesterday. It's currently awaiting the governor's signature.

What does this mean? Basically, a lot of extra paperwork for anyone who wants to hire a model under 18. Once it becomes law, the bill will require the following:

1. Children under 16 must be accompanied by a chaperone.

2. Minor models will require a special permit to work.

3. Employers will have to apply for a certificate of eligibility to hire children, and fill out additional paperwork notifying the state of specific dates, times, and locations of the jobs beforehand.

4. Child models won't be allowed to work after midnight or return to work less than twelve hours after they've left.

5. If child models miss more than three days of school, their employer is required to provide them with a tutor and a space to study.

6. Fifteen percent of a child model's income will be placed into a trust account that they can only access when they turn 18.

It's not all dotted lines and rainbows, though: It'll be tough for the state to monitor and enforce these rules, especially since models are technically considered "freelance contractors" instead of "employees." The penalty for breaking these laws is a civil fine — $1,000, $2,000, and $3,000 for the first, second, and third or more offenses, respectively. The most logical way for model agencies to handle the new legislation? Just hire adults 18 and over, like most other workplaces manage to do. 

Realistically, though, this will have a serious impact on the fashion industry in New York. Fordham law professor Susan Scafidi told the Times today, "It is true that the aesthetic is going to change a lot." But that's probably for the best, adds Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff (pictured above with alliance member Coco Rocha), who has advocated for this bill for years. “I don’t think [using older models] that would be such a bad thing," she says. "Designers are marketing their clothes to adults, so I think that would be appropriate." How will modeling agencies and designers handle the change? If all goes according to plan, we'll see come September.