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Porn Biz Skirts Workers’ Comp by Hiring Independents

Porn Biz Skirts Workers’ Comp by Hiring Independents By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter With the recent outbreak of HIV in the adult entertainment industry, you might think producers have turned their attention to the health care and related benefits available to these performers. They haven’t. The vast majority of employees working in the multi-billion dollar porn industry, much of it centered in the San Fernando Valley, are not covered by health or workers’ compensation insurance, industry insiders say. The majority of adult entertainment production companies hire actors as independent contractors, and as a result, they are not required to carry workers’ comp insurance for these workers. Most do not offer any health insurance benefits either, but brokers who work with some of these companies say that adult entertainment actors are not likely to carry health insurance, even when offered such programs. Adult industry performers typically work for many production companies, and the firms are not required to cover them as a result. “The vast majority of the 1,200 people that make a living performing in the movies are not employees – they are independent contractors,” said attorney Jeffrey Douglas, who is a member of the Free Speech Coalition, an industry advocacy group. There are some exceptions. Independent contractors Douglas said that a handful of companies, including Chatsworth-based Wicked Pictures and Van Nuys-based Vivid Entertainment, “have talent under contract” and on a payroll. But Douglas estimates that those companies represent only about 10 percent of all the talent working in the porn industry. The adult entertainment industry will hold one of its largest conventions, Erotica L.A., at the Los Angeles Convention Center next weekend. In response to the recent outbreak of HIV within the industry, after several actors and actresses tested positive for the disease, the industry participated in a two-month moratorium on film production. That hiatus was lifted on June 8. Neither Wicked nor Vivid was affected by the outbreak. Both companies require condom use to protect against HIV. Neither company returned phone calls for comment. An insurance broker with San Clemente-based Greg Zeboray Insurance Services, who asked his name be withheld from publication, said major adult entertainment production companies carry workers’ comp. His insurance company sells various types of insurance to the porn industry. The representative said he believed workers’ comp should be extended to all adult performers, just as it is in mainstream feature film production. “You can’t make a mainstream movie on a 1099,” he said, referring to the IRS income reporting form used for independent contractors. While workers’ comp is out of their reach for reasons they cannot control, most adult performers have the option of health insurance, albeit self-paid, but decline it, the Greg Zeboray representative said. He said PPO insurance plans with no deductibles were available for about $65 per month, but only about 100 to 150 “older performers,” who were not in the business anymore, had signed up. “Most (new) people think insurance is a waste of money,” he said. “The older generation that was in the business two or three years ago is more responsible. The new kids are 18 and 19 and think nothing will ever happen to them.” The representative said “the biggest problem” for insurers is that many insurance brokers lie to insurance companies to get a lower quote. “It comes back to bite people,” he said. Free Speech Coalition’s Douglas said about six years ago the porn industry “was viewed as being uninsurable” and companies couldn’t even get production insurance, much less health insurance for the talent. “It was an absurdity because of the conditions of the filming permits through the City of Los Angeles,” Douglas said. “The insurance industry was essentially forcing the industry underground.” Policies available The times have changed, Douglas said, primarily because of the Coalition’s lobbying effort. Beginning with dental insurance, insurance carriers began offering individual policies to adult performers. Douglas said that makes complete sense from the insurance carrier’s perspective, because “the claims from an adult movie are less than those that would arise from filming” mainstream features. Bill Margold, the chairman of North Hills-based P.A.W. Foundation, which stands for Protecting Adult Welfare, often counsels adult performers on how to take better care of themselves and offers information on health insurance. He said only two people had show interest in getting a policy. “The problem with most of these kids is they don’t have common sense,” Margold said. He said the industry should do a better job regulating itself and instilling awareness. “I think the industry should take care of itself internally,” Margold said.

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