Fordham Law

New York Signs Law Protecting Child Models’ Labor Rights

Susan Scafidi in Fashionista, October 22, 2013

Media Source

Huge news today for the New York modeling industry: Four months after the legislation first passed, Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a law that recognizes models under the age of 18 as child performers. A press conference planned for this morning, to be attended by the Model Alliance’s Sara Ziff (one of the bill’s largest proponents), models Coco Rocha and Arlenis Sosa, the bill’s sponsors, State Senators Jeffrey D. Klein and Diane Savino, and “former child models and victims” at Nivole Miller’s boutique in SoHo, will celebrate the momentous New York law’s passing.

So what does this mean? Prior to the law, underage models were overseen by the Department of Education. Now, they’ll be protected under the Department of Labor. Under the new guidelines, there will be limits to the number of hours young models can work at a time (for example, they must have 12 hours between jobs), as well as a strict curfew of midnight on a school night, reports the New York Times. The original bill also called for mandatory financial trusts and the presence of chaperones and tutors on set, with designers being required to fill out extensive paperwork before working with young models.

According to Susan Scafidi, the academic director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University, the law’s passing is “one of the biggest developments in a century, bringing a whole new group under legal protection.”

The new law brings an all-important legal aspect to the war a sizable portion of the industry has been waging on the controversial hiring of ultra-young models for the past several years.

The CFDA has cracked down on the hiring of under-16 models over the past few seasons, and this law adds a legal component to its plea to designers and magazines, asking them not to hire under-16 models.

While Vogue has complied (for the most part) with the CFDA’s instructions, some heavy hitters were still holding out. This law should act as a major deterrent for designers casting teen models in their shows–like the infamously stubborn Marc Jacobs, who’s reportedly kept models in fittings ’til 4:30am. Designers who violate the law will be fined $1,000 for the first offense, and $2,000 and $3,000 for the second and third.

Of course, the law only protects child models working in New York–but as one of the world’s most powerful fashion cities, we’re hoping Cuomo’s signature will help set a precedent, extending the message of fair treatment for these young women and men on a global level.