Workers and Advocates Applaud ‘Historic Shift’ and ‘Significant Progress’ Achieved by Governor’s Reforms
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the New York State Nail Salon Industry Enforcement Task Force has directed 143 nail salons to pay $2 million in unpaid wages and damages to 652 employees. As the anniversary of Governor Cuomo’s creation of the task force, and subsequent enactment of industry reforms approaches, industry workers and their advocates are heralding this recovery as another example of the “significant progress” Governor Cuomo’s initiatives have ushered in.
“New York State is cracking down like never before on the unscrupulous individuals that take advantage of the hardworking people they employ,” Governor 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.”
In May 2015, Governor Cuomo created the Nail Salon Industry Enforcement Task Force to address widespread exploitation and abuse of nail salon workers. Since that time, the task force, led by the New York State Department of Labor, has opened investigations into more than 450 nail salon businesses, with 383 being completed to date.
Following the task force’s creation, New York State enacted a series of nail salon industry reforms, ranging from surety requirements to protective equipment standards to posting notices. The reforms include:
Bill of Rights: Nail Salons are required to post, in a place visible to all employees and the public, the Nail Salon Workers’ Bill of Rights, which, in plain language, notifies workers of their rights to a legal wage and a safe working environment. The Bill of Rights has become a common sight in nail salons.
New Bond and Insurance Requirements: All nail salons—as a condition of obtaining a license—must secure a bond or insurance policy to cover failure to pay legal wages and other general business liabilities. In the event that a nail salon owner is ordered to pay back wages, the new requirement will ensure that the business has the critical funds to meet its legal obligation. Through April 8, some 4,000 nail salons across the state had secured a wage bond.
Training and Job Resources for Workers: The Governor introduced legislation to create new opportunities for unlicensed nail practitioners to register with the state as trainees, instead of relying on often prohibitively high cost education programs, so they may continue to work while studying for their licensing exam. With this tool, workers can more effectively obtain relevant training and explore opportunities in the industry without being held hostage to any employer. Further, all nail salon workers will have access to the full range of resources available through the Department of Labor to find a job. Through the first week of April, the state had issued more than 2,000 nail trainee applications.
Personal Protective Equipment and Ventilation Requirements: Owners must provide adequate supplies of appropriate protective equipment, such as masks and gloves. Regulations regarding new ventilation standards for nail salons have been posted for public comment. Many salon owners were previously charging manicurists for supplies such as gloves and nail clippers.
Licensing Exams in Additional Languages: The Department of State has begun administering license exams in Nepali, Tibetan and Vietnamese, in addition to English, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, Russian and Chinese. Additionally, free training materials are posted on the department’s website and distributed through community centers to help workers more effectively learn the curriculum and study for exams.
To educate salon owners about the changes, the state held 34 information forums across New York, including some specifically for the Chinese- and Korean-American nail salon owners associations, with translation services available to those attending. In addition, the State distributed fact sheets on the new regulations in 12 languages.