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Model Alliance Helps Coordinate New Law to Protect Models Against Sexual Harassment

The organization is working with New York state Assemblywoman Nily Rozic.
Models walk the Gabriela Hearst Spring 2018 runway. Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Models walk the Gabriela Hearst Spring 2018 runway. Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

The recent news cycle centered around sexual assault allegations in Hollywood has only underscored the need for better protections for women across all industries, including fashion. For the Model Alliance, making the workplace a safer space for models — who are among the least protected workers under current laws — has always been the priority goal, and their latest project couldn't be timelier.

On Monday, New York Assemblywoman Nily Rozic announced she would introduce legislation to protect models against sexual harassment in the workplace, coordinated with the Model Alliance. Dubbed the "Models' Harassment Protection Act," the bill would essentially aim to close loopholes which currently leave models open to sexual harassment on the job. Models are often classified as independent contractors, excluding them from typical employment protections; this bill would bring them back under the umbrella of protection against sexual harassment.

The "Models' Harassment Protection Act" would make 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," per a release from Rozic's office. The bill would make any entity hiring a model — from designers to magazines to retailers — responsible for sexual harassment that occurs on-set.

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While the sexual harassment of models has long been one of fashion's worst-kept secrets, lately it has thrust into the spotlight thanks to model Cameron Russell, who began sharing anonymous accounts of assault and aggression on her Instagram with the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse. Other models have followed suit; Sara Sampaio spoke out against Lui, accusing the French men's magazine of using nude photos without her consent. 

"Models are often put on the spot to appear nude without their informed prior consent, they are not always provided adequate changing areas, and sometimes they are pressured to succumb to inappropriate sexual demands by people who control their professional destinies," Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff said in a release. "In some cases, it's the agents – the very people who are supposed to be looking out for the models' best interests – who are the harassers or who facilitate meetings with people who abuse their power. It's time to hold people in the industry accountable by turning outrage into policy."

If successful, it would be the second time the Model Alliance has helped influence laws in favor of models; in 2013, New York successfully passed a law defining models under the age of 18 as child performers, granting them better protections from the Department of Labor.

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UPDATE, 10/23, 10:50 a.m.: An earlier version of this story referred to the Model Alliance as a "union." It has been updated to reflect that it is not a union, but an organization.