A judge will decide by the end of this month whether to pursue a class action lawsuit brought by a Jamaican model against Republican modeling agency Donald Trump, the judge’s office said.
Alexia Palmer is accusing Trump Model Management LLC of lying to the federal government in her work visa application that said she would receive a salary of $75,000 a year while living in the United States, according to court documents.
Instead, according to court documents, Palmer received a total of $3,880.75 over the three years she was under contract with the agency. The complaint alleges “fraudulent misrepresentations” and violations of US immigration and labor laws. He is asking for $225,000 in back pay.
The lawsuit was originally filed in October 2014. A decision on a pending motion from Trump Model Management to dismiss is expected by the end of March, Clerk Judge Analisa Torres, who is presiding over the case before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District. , told Reuters.
If Torres decides the case can proceed, it could reignite attention on Trump’s overseas work practices at a time when the famous billionaire’s rise in American politics has captured the world’s attention.
Trump’s lawyers called the case “frivolous” and “without merit.” In court papers, they said Palmer was not an employee and was more than adequately compensated for a “very brief stint as a model”, which they say amounted to less than 10 days of work. over three years.
Reuters could not independently confirm this claim.
“At the end of the day, this model just hasn’t had a successful career, and we expect to win,” said Trump Model Management attorney Lawrence Rosen.
Although Trump owns the modeling agency, the suit does not name him. Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement that Trump Model Management’s treatment of Palmer was consistent with “common practice in the modeling industry.”
Palmer’s attorney, Naresh Gehi, claims his client was starved of income and seduced into a glamorous life that never materialized. “The visa application that the company filed with the government requires people to receive the full amount,” Gehi said. “It’s a requirement.”
Palmer, who was 17 when she arrived in New York in 2011, was unavailable for comment.
Jamaican top model
Sylvia Ayass, an attorney who has worked with visa models like Palmer, said agencies typically pay what they declare on visa applications.
Trump won Republican front-runner status in the 2016 election largely by positioning himself as a champion for the American worker who will deport illegal immigrants, build a wall with Mexico and end the outsourcing of American jobs.
This isn’t the first time Trump’s labor practices have drawn criticism. A Reuters article published in August found that Trump companies had been seeking to import at least 1,100 workers on temporary visas since 2000. Of those, 250 were filed for foreign models, according to Reuters analysis of the data. of the Federal Ministry of Labour.
Using a federal visa program called H-1B that allows U.S. employers to hire “specialized” foreign labor, Trump’s modeling agency offered Palmer “at least $75,000 a year.” during three years. He listed that salary on his H-1B visa application in 2011, according to court documents reviewed by Reuters.
Rosen, the lawyer for Trump Model Management, said the $75,000 per year figure was just a guess and not a guarantee.
Under that contract, Palmer agreed to “promptly reimburse ‘Trump Model Management’ for all fees and expenses” the agency incurred in connection with his modeling.
“administrative costs,” according to court documents.
The lawsuit said it was seeking class action status to represent other models who believed they were misled and underpaid after arriving in the United States with sponsorship from Trump’s modeling agency. .
(Additional reporting by Rebekah Kebede in Jamaica. Editing by Jason Szep and Ross Colvin)