On the evening of Wednesday, January 22, about 50 models gathered at the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in New York City to learn about their rights at work.
The Model Alliance's packed workshop featured model and activist Ambra Guttierez, attorneys Manisha Sheth and Christopher Kercher, and Deputy Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, Dana Sussman. Moderated by Model Alliance Founder and Executive Director Sara Ziff, the discussion covered two broad topics: sexual harassment in the modeling industry and economic concerns that we have seen confronting models, as well as what models can do when they experience those issues.
Sheth, former Executive Deputy Attorney General for the Division of Economic Justice at the NY AG’s Office and partner/co-chair of Quinn’s new Sexual Harassment and Employment Discrimination practice, explained legal terms and helped models understand how exploitation is defined under the law. Sussman talked about how the law has changed in the aftermath of the MeToo Movement, and now has a longer timeline for victims to file complaints. Previously victims had one year to come forward, now they have three.
Gutierrez, a new member of the Model Alliance Leadership Council, spoke about her experience with Harvey Weinstein, whose criminal trial is currently underway in New York, and the issue of retaliation. After she was sexually assaulted, she reported what had happened to her to her agent, who warned her that she would lose her career as a result of speaking out. Despite her fears, she said that one thought kept repeating in her mind: she didn’t want this to happen to someone else.
Kercher, who is also a partner at Quinn, talked about economic injustices in the modeling industry, particularly regarding lack of financial transparency and timely payment. He explained the sort of issues he sees -- issues that he explained would be wise for models to keep an eye out for. He stressed the need for models to keep detailed records and copies of their contracts, be mindful of time limits to assert claims that they haven't been paid, and to push for financial transparency.
Ziff discussed the RESPECT Program, a program of the Model Alliance that calls on companies to make an enforceable commitment to prevent and address abuses and bring genuine accountability to the fashion industry. The discussion was followed by a dynamic and engaging Q&A session. Model Alliance thanks Quinn Emanuel, the New York City Commission on Human Rights, and our new, worker-led Leadership Council for making this event a success!
Photo credit: Eek Media