Comparing Underage Model Laws: New York vs California

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Comparing Underage Model Laws: New York vs California

Fashion models seem to be getting younger and younger these days (or maybe we’re getting older?). While hiring underage models isn’t illegal, it is essential to keep in mind that specific regulations apply to minors in this industry. We therefore thought it’d be interesting to compare underage model laws in two different jurisdictions: New York State and California.

Please use this as general information, not as legal advice. If you have any questions regarding laws governing underage modeling, please consult an attorney.

1)    Permits

Under both California and New York State labor laws, underage models are required to obtain a work permit. 

In New York, a minor may obtain a 15-day child performer permitif he or she is applying for the first time or a 12-month child performer permitif a permit has been obtained in the past. In California, a minor may apply for a 6-month entertainment work permitor a 10 day temporary entertainment work permit, if the minor is under 16 years old and has never applied for permit before.

If you’d like to employ an underage model, both states require you to file an employer certificate application form. California and New York state both require employers to maintain a valid workers’ compensation insurance policy to have a valid permit. In California,employer permits must be renewed upon renewal of the worker’s compensation insurance policy or if changes are made to the insurance. On the other hand, New York State permitsare renewable every 3 years. Keep in mind that the State of New York requires employers to notify the Department of Labor at least two days before they are going to engage a minor.

2)    Hours

Permitted hours typically differ according to the age of the underage model, schooling sessions, and the type of work to be done. 

For instance, in New York State, for live performances, models between the age of 6 and 17 years old may work between 5 am and midnight on evenings preceding school days and until 12:30 am if there’s no school the following day. If school is in session, underage models may be on set (for the rehearsal of a fashion show, for instance). for a maximum of 10 hours, may work for a maximum of 8 hours and are entitled to at least one hour of rest/recreation. For more details regarding permitted hours, we suggest you take a look at the New York Department of Labor’s website

In California, permitted hours are overall similar to the ones in New York State. However, keep in mind that differences do exist. For instance, while New York State does make a distinction between live performances and non-live performances, California does not. We therefore, once again, suggest taking a look at the Department of Industrial Relations’ websitefor more information. 

3)    Trust account

To prevent abuse and to ensure children can retain control over a portion of their earnings, both California and New York State require parents of underage models to set up a “Coogan” trust account (a blocked trust account). Employers must transfer 15% of the model’s earnings into this trust account. The underage models may access those sums once they become of age. 

In New York State, if the account’s balance reaches $250,000, parents are required to appoint a trust company as a custodian of the account.

As with all Law on the Runway posts, please use this as general information, not as legal advice. There are many other aspects of underage model laws in both California and New York that you should be aware of. If you have any questions regarding the underage modeling laws or child labour in the fashion/entertainment industry or if you need assistance with complying to these laws, you may email rachel {at}