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New legislation seeks to protect models from sexual harassment

Despite the high-profile nature of the work, many fashion models in New York City have fewer employment law protections than in other industries. Models usually work as independent contractors, meaning their agencies act as intermediaries in setting up shoots with clients. Models do not actually have contracts with the clients they are working for. Because of their status, it is not always clear who is legally responsible when sexual harassment occurs on the job.

Sexual harassment and abuse are rampant in fashion and modeling. In an effort to increase employment protections for models, New York State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic introduced a bill on Oct. 23 that would make photographers, retailers and others explicitly liable for sexual harassment that occurs during a shoot. She introduced the bill shortly after revelations about film mogul Harvey Weinstein's decades of harassing behavior toward actresses and models.

A history of sexual harassment in modeling

Shortly after the media began reporting on Harvey Weinstein, model Cameron Russell began posting testimonials from models about their experiences with sexual harassment. Both women and men are still contributing to the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse. The number of posts is staggering.

Are more legal protections coming?

The legislation arose after Model Alliance, an advocacy group, brought the issue to the attention of Assemblywoman Rozic. Currently, models can bring complaints of criminal abuse to the attention of police or the district attorney. However, the nature and culture of fashion modeling often prevents models from coming forward. The new bill would make it easier for models to take legal action in civil court.

According to The New York Times, Model Alliance and Assemblywoman Rozic are hopeful that grassroots social media movements about the pervasiveness of sexual harassment will help bring more protection to workplaces of all types. The earliest the bill would become law is in 2018.

Meanwhile, it is still unlawful to sexually harass any worker. People who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace have legal options, including bringing a lawsuit against the employer responsible for allowing workplace harassment to occur.

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