Pulse Model Agency photo of model Alexia Palmer
By Michelle Conlin
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Jamaican fashion model who alleges that Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's modeling agency defrauded her of $225,000 in pay is moving forward with her case, despite a federal judge's decision to dismiss the lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in New York dismissed the lawsuit on March 23, saying there was insufficient evidence that model Alexia Palmer had been misled or was owed back pay.
On Wednesday, Palmer's lawyer, Naresh Gehi, said, "We are now going to pursue our rights before the Department of Labor, and, if necessary, we will then appeal this case to the New York state Supreme Court."
Palmer accused Trump Model Management LLC of lying to the federal government in its work-visa application that she would be paid a $75,000-a-year salary while living in the United States, court documents show.
Instead, Palmer earned just $3,380 during the three years she was under contract with the agency after it took an 80 percent cut of her wages by deducting charges for everything from postage to walking lessons to mobile phone costs, as well as $4,000 in administrative fees, court papers show.
Trump’s lawyers have blasted the case as "frivolous" and without merit.
"The salary that was posited was aspirational in nature," said Trump's lawyer for immigration issues, Michael Wildes. "Trump Model has been in full compliance, and should fare well in any investigation or audit."
Though Trump is not personally named in the lawsuit, his presidential campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said in a statement last month that Trump Model Management's treatment of Palmer was in line with "standard practice in the modeling industry."
Trump has won Republican front-runner status in the 2016 election in large part by positioning himself as a champion of the American worker, vowing to protect U.S. jobs and bring back positions that companies have moved overseas to take advantage of cheaper foreign labor.
The controversial H-1B visa program for foreign workers became an issue at a presidential debate in Miami last month, where Trump called H-1B visas "very, very bad for workers." He has acknowledged using them in his own businesses.
“I know the H-1B very well; it’s something that I, frankly, use,” he said.
In August, Reuters reported that Trump's companies had sought to import at least 1,100 workers on temporary visas since 2000. Of those, 250 were filed for foreign fashion models, according to a Reuters analysis of federal Department of Labor data.
Palmer attorney Gehi will appear on Friday, along with immigration experts, at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington to discuss the case with reporters.
(Reporting By Michelle Conlin; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)