Models are banding together in a class action lawsuit seeking compensation from some of the nation’s top modeling firms. Although this lawsuit is occurring outside of California, it could encourage other models across the nation, including Los Angeles, to take up the same cause and pursue legal action. The class action lawsuit names Ford Models, Next Management and Wilhelmina among the defendants. Some ad agencies are also named.

Attorneys for the models claim that the agencies fail to give them accurate account statements about their earnings and that they have concealed funds that should have been paid out to the models. The lead counsel for the case says the modeling agencies have been using money belonging to the models. The suit asserts that agencies mix company funds in with funds that are held for the model. This allows the agencies to use the model’s money with virtually no possibility of the activity being uncovered.

Another issue centers on residual earnings rights. Models tend to move on from agencies over their careers and the suit claims that if an advertising agency wants to use a model’s image after an existing contract expires, the agencies will either forge the model’s signature or claim that they got the model’s permission to go ahead with the transaction. The suit says the model many never realize their image was reused and thus never demand payment.

The suit also alleges that models are forced to sign contracts that forbid them from suing and are threatened with being blacklisted in New York if they ever try to sue.

Full and fair compensation for work is part of the American culture. This value is ensconced in the law, and yet employers too often seek to avoid their legal responsibility. Anyone who feels they have been the victim of unfair or illegal labor practices has a right to fight for their rights. Contacting an experienced attorney is the best way to take the first step.

Source: Yahoo! News, “Models Sue Agencies in $22M Class-Action,” Abby Ellin, ABC News, Oct. 21, 2012