Trump Model Management is under intense scrutiny over possible labor-law violations
A former Trump model is speaking out, claiming the billionaire business man’s modeling agency “lured her” to New York at the age of 17, promising to make her rich, but instead treated her “like a slave.”
Jamaican-born fashion model Alexia Palmer, who filed a lawsuit against Trump Model Management in 2014, claims she received a mere $3,880 plus additional cash advances totaling $1,100 in the three years she worked with the agency, this despite the fact that the company certified that she was a full-time worker making $75,000 a year in her visa application.
In an interview with ABC News on Thursday, Palmer said, “That’s what slavery people do … You work and don’t get no money.”
According to legal documents obtained by TheWrap, the agency deducted 80 percent of her earnings for expenses and fees and only booked 21 shoots for her during the three years she was with the company. Under the terms of her visa, Palmer could not work anywhere else.
“He has seriously misrepresented himself to immigration [authorities],” Palmer’s lawyer Naresh Gehi told TheWrap. “He told immigration and my client that the salary was $75,000 a year and he has failed to honor his commitment,” adding, “federal documents don’t lie.”
Trump’s modeling agency declined TheWrap’s request for comment.
The lawsuit is gaining attention more than two years after it was filed after Trump voiced his opposition while on the campaign trail to the practice by American companies of using foreign workers brought to the U.S. through the controversial H1-B visa program. (Trump reversed his position on the matter in a recent debate.)
“These are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay. I remain totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse,” Trump said in a statement on his website.
But according to a CNNMoney investigation, government data shows that since 2008, Trump’s agency has successfully brought in over around 30 foreign models using the H-1B program.
CNN spoke to a dozen legal experts who said the modeling agency appears to have violated labor laws by failing to pay what it stated on Palmer’s visa application. They also said that the Trump agency didn’t pay the “prevailing wage” determined by the U.S. government, amounting to about $45,000 a year in Palmer’s case.
Making matters worse, what little Palmer did get was almost entirely eaten up by taxes, commissions to the agency, administrative fees and even “walking lessons.”
Palmer ended up netting $4,985 over three years, a figure acknowledged by the Trump agency, according to CNN.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.