Managers Sue Over
Licensing Law

The decades-old and much-reviled California Talent Agencies Act is unconstitutional and enforcement of its provisions should be stopped, the National Conference of Personal Mangers charges in a federal lawsuit filed Nov. 9 in Los Angeles.

The TAA, which has been interpreted by courts to apply to personal managers as well as talent agents, says only those properly licensed can procure employment by clients. Artists have cited the Act to get out of paying commissions to managers they’ve fired, claiming they’d procured work without a license, in a typical scenario.

The suit charges the TAA is vague in its licensing requirements, failing to differentiate between agents and managers, and runs afoul of at least four constitutional protections.
The NCPOM names California Gov. Jerry Brown, Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Labor Commissioner Julie Su as defendants in the complaint targeting enforcement of the act, which the group, based in Las Vegas, says directly violates Article I, Sections 8 and 10, and the 13th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
It’s not the first time Hollywood managers have tried to take on the TAA, but the latest suit may be the first to claim it is fully unconstitutional – and even amounts to slavery. 
The complaint lays out a history of the California law, from the Private Employment Agencies Law in 1913 intended to protect clients from, among other things, being sent to “houses of prostitution, or other unsavory venues that they themselves controlled and/or owned,” to the elimination of the last criminal sanctions provided by the renamed Talent Agencies Act as amended in 1986.
That final amendment is one crux of the suit. In addition to the argument the law applies to talent agents and not personal managers, NCPOM’s complaint says criminal penalties were eliminated for violators of the TAA. Therefore, the state has no basis by which to punish them – including disgorgement of the violator’s contractual rights. In plain English, that includes commissions.
“Despite there not being a defined punishment or penalty for alleged violation of the TAA or the Act expressly stating that no violation can be considered criminal, the Labor Commissioner routinely determines there to be illegal behavior, “ the complaint states.
The suit argues the Act violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution and alleges state officials “routinely ignore” the managers’ right to notice and to know what is prohibited by the Act.
The managers also allege the Act conflicts with Constitutional protections against involuntary servitude “because it affects Plaintiff being paid for its labor without being convicted of a crime.”
The suit claims the TAA interferes with interstate commerce because it has “no provision for the issuance of a License” to an applicant with an out-of-state business address. Instead, according to the complaint, personal managers based outside of California “may engage in the negotiation of an employment contract only with the involvement and consent of a licensed California talent agency.”
And, finally, the Act violates commercial free speech rights by punishing managers for “sending out resumes and photographs, distributing resumes and videotapes and sending written materials.”