Aspiring supermodel Alexia Palmer claims immigration documents completed by Trump’s agency said she would earn US$75,000 a year, but in fact she took away less than $5,000 over a three-year period.
Palmer is now suing Trump Model Management LLC, alleging that she was not treated in line with the promises the agency initially made.
She went on to tell ABC News’ GMA that she had been exploited by the agency. She claimed it took 80 percent of her earnings in fees and expenses, leaving her with earnings in three years of $3,880 and $1,100 in cash advances.
“That’s what slavery people do,” she said. “You work and don’t get no money.”
The model was just 17 years old when she was allowed into the US on an H-1B, a visa for foreign workers which binds them to staying with the same company, and sets a minimum wage for them which is intended to prevent them being used to undercut American labour.
According to Palmer, her visa documents said she would work “full-time” and earn $75,000 a year.
None of that happened, however, as the young Jamaican did not work full time, and was not actually employed by the Trump agency.
Palmer’s lawyer Naresh Gehi says his client was cheated of earnings and seduced by a life of glamour that never materialized.
“The visa application the company filed with the government requires that people are paid the full amount,” Gehi said. “It’s a requirement.”
Robert Divine, a former chief counsel to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, said: “I’d say that somebody’s got some explaining to do.
“It would be extraordinarily unusual for that to be legal,” Divine told ABC News.
The use of H-1Bs is controversial, with both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz promising to crack down on their abuse.
Trump himself has spoken out about other businesses abusing the scheme to bring in cheap foreign labour, then force American workers to train their replacements before firing them.
Meanwhile, Trump’s attorney, Alan Garten, disputed Palmer’s claim.
“Anything she’s saying about being treated as a slave is completely untrue. The greater demand for the model, the better that model does.
“In the case of the individual you’re talking about, there wasn’t – unfortunately – a lot of demand for the model.”
In court documents, Trump’s lawyers said Palmer wasn’t an employee and was more than adequately compensated for a “very brief stint as a fashion model,” which they say amounted to less than 10 days of work over three years.
They said the case was “frivolous” and “without merit.”
A judge will decide by the end of this month whether to proceed with a proposed class action lawsuit filed by Palmer, the judge’s office said.
The complaint alleges “fraudulent misrepresentation” and violations of US immigration and labour laws. It asks for $225,000 in back pay.
The suit was originally filed in October 2014.
A decision on a pending motion by Trump Model Management to dismiss is expected by the end of this month, the clerk for Judge Analisa Torres, who is presiding over the case in the US District Court, Southern District, told Reuters.
Palmer’s modelling career began when she placed second in a contest in Kingston.
“I was very excited because all the girls in Jamaica wanted to be signed with an agency [in New York],” she told GMA.
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