Talent Protections Act: California requires talent agencies to provide education on sexual harassment and eating disorders

 
Image: Carmen Caserta; “Italiana. Italy Through the Lens of Fashion 1971-2001,” Milan

Image: Carmen Caserta; “Italiana. Italy Through the Lens of Fashion 1971-2001,” Milan

 
 

My home state of California has enacted new legislation that has a direct impact on models in the fashion industry. On September 30, 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Talent Protections Act (AB 2338) aimed at providing better education and training and creating safer working environments for the large number of fashion and entertainment industry professionals living and working in the state. The legislation comes in the midst of and in response to the #MeToo movement and attempts to address some of the most widespread problems in the performing arts industries: sexual harassment, eating disorders, and the exploitation of minors.

Personal stories of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault perpetrated against professionals in the fashion and entertainment industries and beyond continue to shed light on predatory subcultures and American culture more broadly as brave women and men summon the revolutionary courage to publicly share their experiences. New York took a stand by expanding its state sexual harassment laws under NYSHRL §296.1 and enacting the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act. California now responds with its own requirements for workplace sexual harassment education and prevention training.

The modeling industry is particularly plagued with pressure for models to maintain certain weight expectations, which has been linked to the prevalence of eating disorders in the industry. Of course, the struggle to maintain weight is not isolated to the modeling profession and has permeated the entertainment and performing arts industries generally. In addition to targeting workplace sexual harassment, the Talent Protections Act also provides for education surrounding eating disorders.

Minors working in the fashion and entertainment industries are uniquely vulnerable to predatory behavior from people in positions of power as well as industry pressures to conform to weight and appearance expectations. The Talent Protections Act pays attention to the special needs of working minors and sets forth specific requirements for agencies contracting with young professionals.

Among other requirements under the Talent Protections Act, talent agencies must provide:

  1. “…educational materials regarding sexual harassment prevention, retaliation, and reporting resources to an adult artist within 90 days of agreeing to representation…”

    • “Educational materials for each artist shall be in the language understood by that artist.”

  2. “…educational materials regarding nutrition and eating disorders to an adult model artist within 90 days of the date of agreeing to representation…”

    • “Educational materials regarding nutrition and eating disorders for each adult model artist shall be in the language understood by that artist.”

  3. “Prior to the issuance of an entertainment work permit to a minor…the parent or legal guardian of a minor between 14 to 17 years of age…shall receive and complete training in sexual harassment prevention, retaliation, and reporting resources.”

    • “Training for each age-eligible minor and his or her parent or legal guardian shall be in the language understood by that person.” (Bill text).

If a talent agency fails to comply with any of these requirements, it will be subject to penalties “in the amount of one hundred dollars ($100) for each violation.” (Bill text). The law goes into effect in January 2019.

I’d like to see a requirement that talent agencies include a provision in their contracts advising models and other performing artists of their right to have legal agreements reviewed by independent counsel before signing.

(This article is not meant as legal advice and is written for educational purposes only. If you need legal services, please contact an attorney.)