Later this month, a judge will decide whether to allow a proposed class action filed by a Jamaican model, Alexia Palmer, against Donald Trump’s agency, Trump Model Management LLC (“TMM”). She sues TMM for $225,000+ in “unpaid wages, actual, incidental, consequential, and compensatory damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, and attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act.” Palmer seeks to represent a similarly situated class of TMM’s foreign models who were shorted pay after coming to the U.S. to work with TMM.
Here is what the lawsuit is about:
– Palmer was discovered and signed on to TMM at age 17 after placing second in a beauty pageant in Kingston, Jamaica.
– She was brought to New York on an H-1B visa and TMM filed immigration paperwork with the U.S. federal government certifying she would work “full-time” and earn $75,000 a year.
– Nevertheless, she has only received $3,880 plus cash advances totaling $1,100 over a three year period despite claiming to be treated “like a slave.”
– “Defendants took more than 80% of the Plaintiff’s hard earned money by cloaking it as “expenses.” TMM allegedly “charged the Plaintiff for obscure expenses… she was asked to take walking lessons, constantly supplied with numerous, unnecessary cosmetics kits, and made to take expensive limousines, all at the Plaintiff’s expense.”
– TMM only found 21 shoots for Palmer to do over three years.
– Under the terms of her H-1B visa, Palmer could not work anywhere else in the U.S.
It’s a proposed class action
It’s important to note that the lawsuit is a proposed class action. So, if the suit is allowed to proceed, then other TMM’s foreign models will be able to join in if they:
(1) came from foreign countries,
(2) were sponsored for H-1B visas, and
(3) did not receive compensation in accordance with the FLSA for a period of three years prior to the filing of the complaint.
Trump’s position is:
– Palmer was not an employee under the FLSA. She was an independent contractor, so “TMM had no obligation under the agreement to procure modeling engagements or any other work for plaintiff. Rather, TMM’s material obligations under the Management Agreement were to negotiate the terms of any modeling engagements offered to plaintiff, and to perform administrative services on her behalf such as invoicing clients and collecting her modeling fees.”
– The $75,000/year expected salary figure on visa application was only an estimate, not a guarantee.
– Palmer was not in demand by clients, which is why she only got 10 days worth of work in that three-year period, so her compensation is adequate.
– “I remain totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse and ending outrageous practices… I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.” Donald J. Trump Position on Visas.
Photo sources: https://www.instagram.com/alexiapalmermodel/ and Reuters. Used for news reporting, commentary and educational purposes.