New Bill Applies Child Labor Laws to Models Under 18

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Photo: Wendell Teodoro/Getty Images

Today, Model Alliance members Sara Ziff and Coco Rocha joined New York state senators Diane Savino and Jeff Klein to propose new legislation that would protect models younger than 18 under the same child-labor laws applied to dancers, actors, and performers of the same age. Enforced by the Department of Labor, the bill would command the following, according to fashion-law professor Susan Scafidi:

Not only would minor models require a permit, but their employers would be required to apply for a general certificate of eligibility to employ child performers and then notify the state of specific dates/times/places beforehand ...

Child models' hours are already restricted by law, depending on their exact ages and whether or not school is in session, but few people who work with models are aware of the exact details. Limits under the new law would be complex but actually more flexible, though they require breaks, including meals. And no sending the models home after midnight on a school night — or asking them to return to work less than 12 hours after they've left.

Other requirements for employing children under 18: If they miss over three days of school, their employer must provide a tutor and space for them to study. Children under 16 must be accompanied by a chaperone. Can you imagine desks and parents backstage at fashion shows? It sounds unlikely, and enforcement might be tricky, especially since models are commonly considered "independent contractors" rather than employees. But establishing some basic rights for these kids — because they are, in fact, children — should be a priority. The bill could pass as early as next week, posing complications for modeling agencies. Alternatively, they could just cast models over 18, which really wouldn't be so bad.