Jamaican fashion model Alexia Palmer has filed a class action lawsuit against Trump Model Management LLC, a fashion and modeling agency owned by Donald Trump. Ms. Palmer alleged that she received just under $4,000 in three years of work, despite her work-visa application stating that she would receive $75,000 a year while living in the United States. If the statements are proven in court – a judge must first approve of the lawsuit later this month – Trump Model Management would have only paid her roughly 2% the original contract salary. The plaintiff is asking for $225,000 – the original amount for all three years’ worth of work.
The agency’s lawyers allege that Ms. Palmer worked less than 10 days in total during those three years and that her fashion career was nothing more than a “brief stint.” The statement would infer that immigrants only need to be paid for hours worked, despite the work-visa application mandating otherwise.
New York Immigration Attorney Sylvia Ayass of Hedayati Law Group P.C. was recently interviewed by Reuters for insight on the case and the immigration law issue at the root of it. (The full article can be found here.) In her history of handling immigration and employment cases and lawsuits, she has found that modeling agencies generally will pay what they state on visa applications. A spokeswoman for Trump’s political campaign said otherwise, that the amount Ms. Palmer was paid is fairly standard for the industry.
H-1B Visa and O-1 Visa Complications
Some of the trouble of the lawsuit might be linked to the fact that Trump Model Management LLC used an H-1B visa application form to get Ms. Palmer into the country for employment immigration. The normal application for a model – considered an artist – would be an O-1 work visa. Although similar in function, the two forms are different, and it could be that the agency misunderstood the legal implications behind the H-1B visa. Trump Model Management’s lawyer stated that the $75,000 salary figure was only an estimate and was in no way guaranteed. Palmer’s own attorney stated that it was not an estimate, it was a requirement.
In addition to allegedly paying far less than the agreed upon amount, Trump Model Management is accused of taking 80% of the earnings Palmer did make, instead of an agreed-upon 20%. Deductions were apparently added to virtually everything the aspiring-model did while in the United States, including using her mobile phone to receiving rides to functions and events.
The class action that was filed hopes to open the door for models all across the country who may have been exploited by modeling agencies in a similar way. Be sure to visit our blog regularly for updates on this story as it develops. If you have an immigration case concern of your own, you can contact our New York immigration lawyers today for a complimentary consultation.