Nail salon workers in New York, who were being ripped off and denied decent wages, are getting justice.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that through the state’s Nail Salon Industry Enforcement Task Force, a total of 143 salons have been ordered to pay $2 million in unpaid wages and damages to 652 employees.
The task force — led by the state’s Department of Labor — was created last year in response to a widespread report of abuse of nail salon workers across the state. Since its creation, the group has opened investigations into over 450 businesses, with a total of 383 completed so far.
“New York State is cracking down like never before on the unscrupulous individuals that take advantage of the hardworking people they employ,” Cuomo said. “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work is a principle that this state was built upon and this administration is committed to stopping employers who exploit workers and deny them what they are rightfully owed.
After the task force was formed, New York State also enacted nail salon industry reforms, which included workers’ bill of rights and requirements on protective equipment.
Under the Nail Salon Workers’ Bill of Rights — which businesses are required to post in a spot visible to employees and the public — workers have the right to a legal wage and safe working environment.
“I am not afraid to fight for fair pay for myself and my co-workers. But knowing that the government is on our side, that they care, and that we can do something in an unjust situation, that is very special to all of us,” said Minerva Lopez, a nail salon worker.
Additional reforms included training and job resources for workers, allowing unlicensed nail practitioners to register with the state as trainees so they can continue working while studying for their licensing exam.
Nail salon owners are also required to provide workers with sufficient amount of appropriate protective equipment, such as masks and gloves. Previously many owners were charging manicurists for supplies. Policies concerning new ventilation standards for salons have also been posted for public comment.
The state has also started to run license exams in languages, such as Nepali, Tibetan and Vietnamese — together with English, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, Russian and Chinese.
“The workers we have spoken to have seen positive changes at their nail salons, such as being paid an hourly rate, receiving breaks, and being paid extra for overtime hours. Not one of their nail salons has been forced to close, nor expects to, because of the new laws,” said Kara Miller, an attorney at Virginia & Ambinder, LLP. “A business that must close because it cannot operate without underpaying workers or subjecting them to inhumane working conditions is not a loss to our community.”