Phillips & Associates

Sexual Harassment in the Fashion Industry

Gender Discrimination Attorneys Advocating for New York City Employees

New York City is an international capitol of fashion and a huge industry. Unfortunately, the industry has a dark side. Many young models are exploited by powerful sexual harassers and abusers. Due to the nature of the business, many models and others within the industry are reluctant to report their abusers or otherwise seek remedies. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City sexual harassment lawyers may be able to help you recover damages if you experienced sexual harassment in the fashion industry, whether this took the form of a hostile work environment or quid pro quo harassment.

Sexual Harassment in the Fashion Industry

Sexual harassment can be extremely damaging, causing severe distress as well as economic losses to victims. Many people within the fashion industry have been reluctant to speak out against sexual harassment, due to a fear of retaliation or blackballing and the inability to secure work with the most prestigious and powerful tastemakers.

Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a person with authority tries to trade sexual favors for employment benefits. For example, if your agent promised to book you a plum modeling gig if you would sleep with him, this would be considered quid pro quo harassment. By contrast, a hostile work environment occurs if the harassment is so severe or pervasive that it renders the workplace hostile or offensive to a reasonable person. For example, if you are working with a fashion magazine in which the photographers and editors routinely denigrate women, make lewd remarks about your body parts, and touch you inappropriately, you may have been subject to a hostile work environment.

If you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, and you have an employment contract with a company, you can seek damages under federal, state, and local laws. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment against people who work for employers that have at least 15 employees. State and local laws prohibit sexual harassment at all employers. While the New York State Human Rights Law generally applies to businesses with four or more employees, it prohibits sexual harassment in all workplaces in the state, even those with just one employee.

Damages that your attorney may be able to help you recover include back pay, front pay, medical expenses, therapy bills, and emotional damages. Back pay could include wages, bonuses, commissions, health insurance, sick pay, vacation pay, retirement benefits, profit sharing, and stock options. However, this figure can be reduced if you do not mitigate your damages (minimize your losses) by searching for another job and taking other steps to reduce your wage loss. As long as you made a good-faith effort, you are entitled to the full amount of wages that you lost due to sexual harassment. Front pay is supposed to compensate you for wages that you are likely to lose from the date of your judgment into the future if you are unable to find another job as a result of sexual harassment. Often, people within the industry blackball somebody who complains about sexual harassment, so it becomes difficult to secure another job, and front pay is intended to remedy that problem. The court will consider how long it might take to find a similar job, how old you were, how long you stayed at your old job, and how long people typically work in that type of job.

What if You Are Not an Employee?

A difficulty with pursuing damages for sexual harassment in New York for many models within the fashion industry is that they are not employees. You may not be able to pursue damages under the usual anti-discrimination laws if you are an independent contractor or categorized as a non-employee. You should discuss your situation with a lawyer to understand your rights.

Recently, a State Assemblywoman announced that she would introduce an amendment to the anti-discrimination laws to provide protection to models, even those who are not "employees," so that agencies, designers, photographers, retailers, and others in the industry can be held accountable for sexual harassment and abuse. The specific provisions are supposed to protect employees even if they are independent contractors whose agencies act as advisers rather than employers.

Seek Guidance from a Sexual Harassment Lawyer in New York City

At Phillips & Associates, we may be able to help you recover damages if you were subject to sexual harassment in the fashion industry in New York City. We fight employment discrimination and harassment in Staten Island, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, as well as Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Westchester County, and New Jersey. Contact our attorneys at (212) 248-7431 or through our online form.

45 Broadway, #620,
New York NY, 10006
Tel: 212-248-7431
Fax: 212-901-2107
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