On October 23rd, 2017, the Model Alliance and New York State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic announced the introduction of the "Models' Harassment Protection Act," legislation that would provide models with protections against sexual and other forms of harassment in the industry.
Critical to the bill is establishing that the provisions apply to models regardless of their status as employees or independent contractors. In the United States, fashion models are generally considered as independent contractors, excluding them from protections against harassment and discrimination afforded to employees under state law. The inconsistencies in classification in addition to the way modeling agencies have been able to skirt around state law and regulations have cultivated a workplace environment that lacks accountability.
Though modeling agencies in New York State are licensed alongside other employment agencies under the general business law, it is common practice for agencies to claim that they instead serve as management companies. This allows modeling agencies, which call themselves model management companies, to exploit the “incidental booking” exception clause under New York’s employment agency laws, which provides that their efforts in securing modeling work for models is merely incidental to their provision of career management. As a result, agencies that claim to be management companies have escaped licensing requirements, avoided caps on commissions, and accountability to the models whose interests they represent.
The bill would address loopholes in current law by making it an unlawful discriminatory practice for a modeling entity, whether it be a management agency or company, to subject a model to harassment, regardless of their status as an independent contractor or employee. Harassment includes but is not limited to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and harassment based on age, race, national origin, color, sexual orientation, sex, and disability.