A California law firm is using an often ignored part of CA labor law to go after photographers, producers and advertising agencies. On the website for the Muse Law Group under the heading Model Rights they state that:
Under California Law, actors, as well as print and commercial models are considered employees, which means they are protected under the same labor laws as any other employees. Yet the entertainment industry frequently treats the talent differently from other employees, or does not treat the talent as employees at all, routinely violating California’s wage laws. For example, in California, actors must be paid on the first pay period following the completion of the actor’s work; and print models must be paid on the last day of the shoot, even if the work lasts only one day.
They go on to say that failing to pay on the last day of employment results in a penalty equal to the average daily wage times the number of days it took to be paid with a maximum penalty of 30 days. In other words, a model you paid $1000 for 1 day of work, but waited 31 or more days to pay could be owed $30,000.
From what I understand the labor code they cite, California state labor code section 200-243, was created to protect migrant workers who are often hired and then released/fired. Seems reasonable except most businesses working with vendors and talent usually pay in 30 days (absurdly longer if you’re a magazine). I’ve been told by several sources that the law firm has sent out demand letters and there’s a rumor they are posting on forums like model mayhem to attract clients.
The California APA sent an email out to its members last night explaining what is happening and advising them that according to a lawyer they spoke with, to the best of their knowledge, there has been no legal decision made on the argument the demand letters are making. The firm is hoping to settle, which is also indicated on their website where they say “We settle 95% of our cases without the need for court intervention.”
The CA APA goes on to say that you should contact a lawyer if you have been threatened with a claim. They also note that with talent that is represented by an agency the payment must go to the agency where there is a 30 day re-disbursement of funds. Apparently the real danger is non agency represented talent who must be paid at the end of their shoot under CA labor law. Obviously, talent agencies that want to continue their relationship with photographers, producers and agencies are not going to do much about this, so I believe the real danger is with un-represented talent.