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Bryant Whitten, LLP

New California law may curb hostile work environment practices

When people typically consider the lifestyle of models, actors/actresses and others in the entertainment industry, they conjure visions of lavish parties, expensive clothing and a fairly comfortable way of life. However, most who are "in the industry" describe a life in which they are subjected to a hostile work environment. Generally, they have very few legal protections from the frequently untenable conditions and demands that are required of them. In California, lawmakers have proposed legislation that may go a long way to provide labor protections for the modeling industry, and also open the door for more sweeping legislation that could cover others in the entertainment industry.

In a thorough investigative report on this issue, CNN sought interviews and information from current and former models, attorneys, experts in labor law and others. Overwhelmingly, they found that the industry is fraught with abuses, including sexual harassment and other financial machinations that leave many models constantly in debt to their agencies. Most models get their start when they are underage and are willing to accept terrible working conditions in order to get their "big break."

In addition, the investigation discovered that clients typically hire models as contract workers and not employees. This employment arrangement allows them to enjoy much less rigorous oversight, and it also makes it very difficult for models to challenge situations that make them uncomfortable. Many models stated that they felt there was no recourse if faced with wage theft or sexual harassment from their clients.

Though this legislation specifically focuses on the modeling industry, many agree that employment and labor abuses are rampant in the entertainment industry as a whole. Any who are facing a hostile work environment in California may benefit from consulting an attorney who understands the state's latest employment and labor laws. An attorney who focuses on this type of law may be in the best position to give advice on the various legal options available if an injured party wishes to pursue a civil lawsuit.

Source: money.cnn.com, "Runway Injustice: How the modeling industry exploits young workers", Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken, May 12, 2016

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