Models: Laws Governing the Modeling Industry in the U.S.

Protections under New York State Law

In June 2013, New York legislators voted unanimously to pass, Child Performers Protection Act of 2015, a law aimed at protecting underage models under the umbrella of the New York Department of Labor ("NYDOL"), as opposed to the Department of Education. (NYDOL). The bill, which was proposed by Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein and State Senate Labor Committee Chairwoman Diane Savino, recognizes models as child performers, affording them the same protections actors, dancers, and musicians under the age of 18.

Effective November 20, 2013, child models who live or work in New York State are covered by NYDOL Law and its applicable regulations as child performers. (NYDOL). The law adds “print and runway models” to the list of performers covered by strict Department of Labor regulations to protect individuals under the age of 18. In addition to NY lawmakers, the Model Alliance, a non-union organization that works to improve working conditions for fashion models, played an enormous role in the introduction and passage of the bill. (Model Alliance).

The law requires design houses that want to cast models under age 18 to apply for a certificate to work with them and will be forced to keep careful records of all minors they work with should the Department of Labor inquire. Violations will result in fines — up to $1,000 for the first offense, and $2,000 to $3,000 for second and third offenses. (NYDOL). That’s not a lot for a big fashion brand, but the publicity they’d get for violating child labor laws would be much more damaging.

1 - Possess a certificate of eligibility to employ "child performers" (the models in this case) that was issued by the NYDOL;
2 - Submit a notice of use of child performers to the NY DOL at least 2 days before each of the events (think: fittings, runway shows, etc.);
3 - Make sure the child models had valid work permits and maintain a copy of the permits;
4 - Follow the restricted working hours, which includes giving models breaks after every four hours of work; AND
5 - Keep documentation evidencing models' trust accounts (and place 15% of models' earnings in those accounts).

Proposed Federal Legislation

In November 2015, Representative Grace Meng of New York introduced the Child Performers Protection Act of 2015 to the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce. The bill intends to extend federal workplace regulations to young industry professionals, including models. (

The proposed legislation reads as follows:

This bill amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to revise the application of child labor requirements and prohibitions with respect to child performers to specify new limitations on the number of hours such children may be employed at the place of employment.

An employer or contractor may not: (1) employ any child performer unless a trust meeting specified requirements has been established on the child performer's behalf and the employer has obtained the account number of the trust account or other proof of its existence; or (2) compensate a child performer in any form besides cash wages, exclusive of board, lodging, or facilities.

Any employment or contracting of a child performer that is not in accordance with such limitations and requirements shall be treated as oppressive labor.

Certain work hour restrictions shall not apply to child performers employed in a live theatrical production.

Any individual in a supervisory role with respect to a child performer shall be liable for unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex against a child performer whether or not the individual is employed by or contracted by a covered employer or contractor.

Any child performer aggrieved by unlawful harassment on the basis of sex, or the performer's parent or guardian, may bring a civil action in any federal court of competent jurisdiction to recover equitable relief and compensatory and punitive damages, costs, and attorneys fees.

The employer of an individual who is alleged to have engaged in unlawful harassment on the basis of sex against a child performer shall conduct an internal review of its policies and procedures for protecting child performers and ensuring appropriate compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.