Employee classification has become an escalating issue in the modeling industry as modeling agencies enjoy the cost saving perks of classifying their models as Independent Contractors. A Manhattan model recently, filed a suit against her agency in New York, demanding over $30,000 in back wages and other unspecified damages, arguing that she is entitled to as a result of her agency allegedly misclassifying her as an independent contractor instead of an employee. The model argued in her lawsuit that she should have been classified as an employee based upon the fact that her agency required her to sign an exclusive contract making it impossible for her to work for any other agency.
In the United States, models are customarily classified as independent contractors. If a modeling agency decides to classify a model as an independent contractor, there is no bright line rule in New York State to indicate that a particular individual has been incorrectly categorized. However, France affords their models broader options in that models are considered both employees and independent contractors. The Labour Code (Code du Travail) is the primary basis for labor law in France. Models are considered employees with regards to their physical work, and independent contractors regarding the use of their image. As such models are able to enter into two different agreements with their agencies. In France, individuals who would consider the use of an independent contractor agreement are referred to as freelancers. In order to be self-employed in France, permission must be granted and your ability to generate revenue in the Country must be confirmed.
In the United States, some individuals enjoy the flexibility of being categorized as an independent contractor due to the scheduling availability and the litter of nonexclusive deals they can pick and choose. Traditional employees are generally subject to stricter corporate policies and governed by exclusive contracts.
Despite the advantages above, there are downsides to working as an independent contractor. Independent contractors are responsible for reporting their own income to the IRS, and may pay their entire Social Security and Medicare taxes, a shared expense for employees with their employers. After waiting so long to finally get that modeling contract, please consult with an attorney prior to signing on the immaculately dotted line.