Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would, for the first time, create nationwide workplace protections for child actors. Currently, kids working in the film and TV industry are exempt from federal laws governing the employment of children, and must instead rely on a crazy-quilt of wildly varying state laws governing their safety and the hours they can be employed.
“We must do all we can to protect our kids and keep them out of harm’s way, and that includes safeguarding children that work as actors and models,” Meng said in a statement today. “For too long, kids in entertainment and modeling industries have not been adequately protected in the workplace and it’s way past time for that to change. This legislation would finally accomplish that goal by shielding vulnerable child performers from workplace abuses that they constantly face and in many cases have been forced to endure. Only a federal law, rather than a patchwork of different state laws, can sufficiently protect these children throughout the entire country. I urge my colleagues in Congress to pass this important bill.
As Deadline reported in October 2014, laws in many state laws designed to protect child actors are astonishingly lax. California, for instance, is one of the few states to specifically prohibit the employment of prematurely born babies on film and TV productions. In 18 states, there is no regulation or protection of them at all. California has the strictest laws governing child actors, and Linda Stone, who was then business rep for IATSE Studio Teachers Local 884, said it should be the national model. “There should be a national law for the protection of babies and children working in the entertainment industry,” she said.
The new bill would establish a maximum number of hours child actors can continuously work, based on their age, and would require that 15% of a child’s earnings be placed in a trust account until they turn 18, unless a financial need for the money is demonstrated. This provision is modeled after similar laws in California and New York, whose intent is to prevent parents from taking all the money earned by their children.
The bill would also create a private right of action for child actors and models who are sexually harassed, allowing children to sue their employers if sexually harassed while on the job. It would also require that compensation for child runway models be paid in cash wages. Meng said they’re “sometimes not fairly compensated for their work and are instead paid with unusable clothes or handbags that were worn in fashion shows.”