N.Y. Legislators Aim to Protect Models Against Sexual Harassment

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The proposed law was drafted at the behest of Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff.

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, New York State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic has drafted legislation that aims to protect models in the fashion industry against a similar kind of abuse at the hands of those in power. 

The proposed legislation is an amendment to the state's current antidiscrimination laws, and would place responsibility onto the shoulders of photographers, retailers and designers, among others, should a model experience harassment on their watch. The protection would clear up the gray area of where exactly blame is placed when a model reports misconduct. Because models are independent contractors working through agencies, there is little regulation and thus not a clear chain of liability regarding which parties are held accountable for a model's well-being.

The issue was brought to Rozic's attention by Sara Ziff, founder of Model Alliance, an organization that acts as both a support system and a means to protect the rights of young models in the industry. 

“Models lack basic rights and protections as workers, including protection against sexual harassment,” said Ziff, a model herself, in a release. “For years, other models and I have spoken out about systemic sexual harassment and abuse on the job — and yet, powerful individuals have tried to silence us and tacitly given approval that this behavior is okay. Sexual harassment is not okay and should not be tolerated by models, nor should it be tolerated by our industry.”

In the past two weeks, the fashion industry has openly reflected on its shortcomings when it comes to protecting young models, some of whom are too timid to speak up for themselves, or face other obstacles like unsupportive agencies or a language barrier. Model Cameron Russell used her Instagram account to publish more than 45 anonymous accounts of abuse from her peers, and both Christy Turlington and Karen Elson — two fashion industry veterans — have opened up about the "rampant" sexual harassment that has become almost normalized and expected.