Federal Legislation Introduced to Protect Child Actors/Models

Federal Legislation Introduced to Protect Child Actors/Models

by Jerry Glover

December 5, 2017

Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) has introduced House Bill 3691 which, for the first time, would provide federal protection for children working in the entertainment and modeling industries. Currently, minors employed in film, radio, television or theatre productions are not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 8, so that federal limitations on number of work hours a person is allowed to work in one day and what those allowable hours are do not apply to minors in the entertainment industry.

Under the proposed legislation, the work hours for minors (including infants) would be limited as follows:

(a) Infants under six months are permitted to work no more than 2 hours a day
(b) Age 6 months to 24 months: 4 hours a day
(c) Age 2 years to 6 years: 6 hours a day
(d) Age 6 years to 9 years: 8 hours a day
(e) Age 9 years to 16 years: 9 hours a day

The bill specifically notes, however, that these limitations do not apply to children working in theatre productions (including opera and dance).

The legislation also requires the child’s employer or contractor to establish a trust account on behalf of the child. California has required this type of trust account for child actors for many years. It is called a Coogan account after Jackie Coogan, a child actor in during the silent film era and during the early talkies. His parents and others ran through all the money he had earned as a child actor so that by the time he was an adult he had very little money. To prevent this situation from happening again, the California legislature requires what the federal legislation is now proposing.

The proposed legislation would require that not less than 15 percent of the child’s earning be deposited in this trust account. It would prohibit access by the child to the account until the child is 18 years old. It prohibits access to the account by the child’s parent/guardians except in very narrow circumstances.

Finally, the legislation prohibits an employer from paying the child performer in anything other than money. One reason for this part of the bill may be based on the experience of child models who are often paid nothing in cash but they are allowed to keep the clothes they wore for a fashion shoot or fashion show.

The legislation specifically notes that it does not pre-empt any State law or regulation containing requirements that are “greater” than the legislation’s requirements.

The bill is now being reviewed in committee.

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