Alexia Palmer is suing Trump Model Management, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s modeling agency, for allegedly stealing the money it promised her and violating immigration laws. The suit may get approval to move forward as a class-action lawsuit by the end of the month.
In a lawsuit filed in October 2014, Palmer says she was promised a salary of $75,000 a year, a figure that was listed on the H-1B application the company filled out to sponsor her immigration to the United States from Jamaica in 2011 when she was 17.
But in court documents, she says she received just $3,880.75 over three years for 21 modeling gigs after the company deducted a number of high-end expenses from her pay.
The contract stipulated that Palmer would reimburse the agency for costs and expenses, but she charges that it took 80 percent of her pay for things ranging from postage and phone costs to forcing her to take walking lessons, dermatology appointments, and expensive limousine rides. “The visa application the company filed with the government requires that people are paid the full amount,” Palmer’s lawyer Naresh Gehi told Reuters. “It’s a requirement.”
Palmer is seeking $225,000 in back pay, and the lawsuit also seeks class-action status to cover other models who may have been underpaid after being sponsored by Trump Modeling.
Trump Models has claimed that Palmer was adequately compensated for a “very brief stint” as a model, claiming she only worked 10 days over the three-year time period. The agency’s initial response was to file a motion to dismiss the case in March of last year, arguing it boiled down to a “garden variety” breach of contract claim.
“At the end of the day, this model just didn’t have a successful career, and we fully expect to win,” Trump Models lawyer Lawrence Rosen told Reuters. He also said the promise of $75,000 was an estimate and not a guarantee of what she would be paid.
Trump owns the agency, but he isn’t named in the lawsuit. His campaign spokeswoman said in a statement that Palmer’s treatment was in line with “standard practice in the modeling industry.”
Palmer is not the only employee suing Trump’s businesses. A lawsuit filed in February of last year by a catering staffer for one of his luxury hotels alleges that staff was illegally stiffed out of tips by a mandatory service fee added to bills that never made it into employees’ pay. In February of this year, one of his former campaign staffers sued the campaign for gender discrimination, alleging that she was paid less and given fewer opportunities than men. Trump and his companies have faced a number of other lawsuits from employees over the years, from claims that unionized crew managers were cheated out of benefit contributions while building Trump Tower to more than one sexual harassment complaint.
Palmer's lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge on March 23, who said the model had not provided sufficient evidence that Trump Models had fraudulently applied for her U.S. work visa or that she had worked enough hours to warrant her minimum wage claims and get back pay.