New Era for California

Talent agencies have collaborated with lawmakers to expand California legislation in hopes of protecting its artists and models.

Hollywood glamour always comes with a price. First, the need to look beautiful, according to unrealistic standards, and second, the need to keep silent. The entertainment industry is a grueling environment to work in. Artists have remained silent about sexual harassment and fashion models have been forced to compromise their health to keep their job.

A key player in the fight for change has been Assemblymember Marc Levine, who introduced the Talent Protections Act, a bill designed to protect the physical and mental health of artists and models in the entertainment industry. Advocates of this bill included the Academy of Eating Disorders, the Eating Disorders Coalition, and the Model Alliance, specializing in research and policy-making concerning people employed in the fashion industry. On September 30, 2018, the former governor of California, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. approved Levine’s bill, enacting Assembly Bill No. 2338.

Specifically, the law requires talent agencies to provide educational materials on sexual harassment prevention and retaliation, including resources on nutrition and eating disorders, to their artists and models within 90 days of being retained. Such materials must also be provided to the parent or legal guardian of a minor. The parent or guardian must also complete training concerning those topics. The new law further requires that the educational materials be in the language the artist or model understands and talent agencies are to keep a record for three years, confirming that they have abided by the rules.

The law does not stop there. Talent agencies are to ensure that the educational materials were made available and presented in the appropriate language. They must also request and retain a minor’s entertainment work permit. Alas, failure to comply with its requirements will result in a not-so-severe civil penalty of $100 for each violation. The California Labor Commissioner maintains the discretion to not penalize the talent agency if lack of adherence was due to a clerical error or inadvertence upon completion of a thorough investigation.

How will this change affect the legal community?

One of the prominent kickstarters of exposing sexual harassment allegations was the Me Too Movement. The term was coined by Tarana Burke in 2006 to support women and girls of color who were victims of sexual violence. This significant movement was rekindled approximately 10 years later when accusations against the entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein came to light. Both criminal and civil cases began to surface concerning harassment allegations in the entertainment industry.

It is questionable whether Levine’s bill will help deter, or possibly further, sexual harassment litigation. On the one hand, individuals are being educated about what sexual harassment entails and are potentially forewarned against it. On the other hand, it is allowing victims to speak up and expose any wrongdoing.

What does this mean for California?

It means that we are progressing into an era of no more silence. No more fear of retaliation. An era where working professionals in the fashion industry would be following healthy guidelines and not falling down the path of anorexia. Minors will be better protected during their most tender years as entertainers. Now, talent agencies bear more responsibility in safeguarding the mental and physical health of their artists and models.