A model suing Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s modelling agency will find out later this month if her $225,000 (£158,000) case can proceed.
Jamaica-born Alexia Palmer is accusing Trump Model Management – the talent agency founded by the billionaire businessman in Manhattan in 1999 – of racketeering, breach of contract, mail fraud and violating wage laws for immigrants.
The lawsuit was originally filed in October 2014; a judge in the U.S District Court has until the end of the month to decide whether a pending motion by Trump’s agency to dismiss the case can go through. If the judge decides that Palmer’s case can proceed, it could put Trump’s immigrant employment practices under an unflattering microscope.
Palmer, who was discovered in a Jamaican model agency’s Caribbean Model Search when she was a teenager and became the first Jamaican model to star in Vogue without being signed to an international fashion label, moved to New York in 2011. She claims that Trump’s company lied to the federal government by documenting on her work visa application that she’d be paid a yearly $75,000 salary while living in the US.
Instead, Palmer states that she worked exclusively for Trump Model Management from 2011 to 2013 and only received a total of $3,880 in pay over the three years after the agency deducted a 20 percent handling fee and various “insignificant expenses”.
Reuters today reports that Trump’s lawyers have called the case “frivolous” and “without merit”, with court documents showing that Palmer’s work via the agency only culminated in 10 days of assignments over the three years and that she was more than adequately compensated. “At the end of the day, this model just didn’t have a successful career, and we fully expect to win,” said Lawrence Rosen, a lawyer for Trump Model Management.
Palmer’s lawyer, Naresh Gehi, says his client was cheated of earnings and seduced by a life of glamour that never materialised. “The visa application the company filed with the government requires that people are paid the full amount,” Gehi said. “It’s a requirement.”
It is not clear whether Palmer is now represented by a rival agency or still working in the industry.
Controversial Republican Trump has pledged a three-point immigration reform plan to ‘make America great again’ if he becomes president. In it he states his mission to put American workers first by hiring them over illegal immigrants, and argues the influx of foreign workers ‘holds down salaries, keeps unemployment high, and makes it difficult for poor and working class American.’ Opponents have already said such a policy is hypocritical, citing reports that suggest Trump’s vast network of hotels across America have favoured foreign workers for menial jobs over US-born residents.
Palmer was briefly signed to Models1 in London in 2011 after being discovered. On the agency’s blog, she revealed that before she was scouted, she harboured aspirations of being a bank manager: “I love accounting. I’m studying business and accounting at home.”