Articles & Publications 06.10.24

Fashionably Late or Right On Time: New York’s Fashion Workers Act Heads To The Governor’s For Signature

The Fashion Workers Act has been passed by the New York Assembly and Senate and is now heading to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. It’s a comprehensive law that provides additional requirements for clients and agencies.

New York’s fashion industry is an economic powerhouse, but it has a shadowy side. As independent contractors, there are few protections for models and creators at best. The minimal protections that do exist lag behind those provided in other related industries, including talent agencies. The Fashion Workers Act would also curtail predatory practices (including concerning minors) in an industry that is known for being ripe for the potential for abuse.

It’s surprising that this sort of legislative protection was not enacted before. New York is the hub of the fashion industry in the United States. The Model Alliance, a non-profit organization that advances workers’ rights in the fashion industry, has noted that New York’s fashion industry employs approximately 180,000 people, hosts New York Fashion Week annually, and generates close to 600 million dollars in income annually. Notwithstanding the industry’s status in New York, basic labor protections do not exist. The Fashion Workers Act would address a need and prevent certain management companies from operating with impunity.

The Fashion Workers Act would create some fundamental rights that do not currently exist:

  • Fiduciary duty on the part of management agencies to act in the best interests of their talent;
  • Require management companies to provide models with copies of contracts and agreements;
  • Require management companies to notify formerly represented models if the management company collects royalties on their behalf;
  • Register and deposit a surety bond of $50,000 with the NYS Department of State; and
  • Protect the health and safety of models, including establishing a zero-tolerance policy for abuse.

Clients would also be subject to specific requirements, including paying overtime for work exceeding eight consecutive hours and providing liability insurance to cover the health and safety of models who work for them.

Notably, the Fashion Workers Act was recently amended to protect models and others from the unauthorized use or alteration of their digital likenesses. Management companies and clients would be required to obtain explicit written consent for creating or using a model’s digital replica, and the consent must detail the scope, purpose, rate of pay, and duration of such use. Under the Fashion Workers’ Act, for example, the model’s digital replica could not be altered or manipulated in any way without the model’s written consent.

The Fashion Workers Act is heading to Governor Hochul’s desk for signature. It’s unclear if the Governor will sign it, but she should. It is an opportunity to advance basic protections for an industry inextricably linked with New York’s identity. When it comes to the Fashion Workers Act, New York should be “fashion forward.”

However, it is unclear if the Fashion Workers Act will become law. When it comes to fundamental protections, New York may be anything but fashion-forward.