Assemblywoman Nily Rozic this week will introduce the Models’ Harassment Protection Act
A soon-to-debut New York amendment seeks to declaw the catwalk.
Assemblywoman Nily Rozic this week will introduce the Models’ Harassment Protection Act, an amendment to state law that aims to hold designers, ad agencies, photographers, retailers and others accountable for potential sexual misconduct against models who work for them.
Under current law, Rozic told Moneyish, models’ rights live in “a gray area”: Models are typically labeled independent contractors, a status that deprives them of state law-provided sex harassment and discrimination protections. And modeling agencies can claim they’re management companies, allowing them to evade licensing requirements, caps on commissions and other responsibilities to models.
“There’s no accountability when it comes to who ultimately has to respond to sexual harassment in the workplace,” Rozic said. “The bill addresses this loophole in the law by making it an unlawful practice for a modeling entity — whether it be this talent agency or management company — to subject a model to harassment, regardless of whether they’re an independent contractor or employee.” Clients would also have to provide models with the means and appropriate contact for reporting a complaint.
The 31-year-old Queens Democrat teamed up on the forthcoming legislation with ex-model Sara Ziff, founder of the Model Alliance labor activism group, to combat what she called “a longstanding problem in the industry.” Their announcement rolled out Monday — right as disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s sex scandal had spurred cross-industry soul searching, and in the wake of Christy Turlington, Karen Elson, and anonymous others prompted by model Cameron Russell sounding off on harassment within the fashion industry.
Ziff, 35, has witnessed misconduct since she launched her modeling career at 14. The harassed include both women and men, she stressed to Moneyish, and the harassers include photographers, agents, agency heads and stylists. Abuse can run the gamut from photographers’ surprise propositions of nudity to agencies knowingly sending models into informal meetings with known predators, she said; some respondents to an anonymous 2012 survey even reported their agents had encouraged them to sleep with their harassers for career advancement.
“It was typical to show up at a shoot and have the photographer say, ‘Hey, can we try this topless?’” Ziff said. “It can be challenging to say no if you’re working with a powerful photographer or there’s an editor on set who you don’t want to let down.” Being caught off guard has grown “so normalized,” she added. “At a minimum, we should be able to have a policy whereby if a job involves nudity or semi-nudity, then get the model’s informed prior consent. It shouldn’t be that hard.”
Rozic’s bill, which she hopes will pass next year after the legislative session reopens in January, explicitly bars clients (retailers, designers, manufacturers, photographers, etc.) and modeling entities (modeling agencies, model management companies, etc.) from pursuing unwelcome sexual advances on models or requesting sexual favors. It also safeguards against employment discrimination.
“Models need protection against sexual harassment, and that shouldn’t be controversial,” Ziff said. “This industry really needs (to be) professionalized — and I don’t think it will be until we hold people accountable through legislation.”
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