In the wake of an investigative report examining the conditions of nail salon workers which was released last week by the New York Times, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has introduced a number of emergency measures to protect these individuals. In a detailed online announcement posted May 11th on the governor’s website, he is quoted as stating, “We will not stand idly by as workers are deprived of their hard-earned wages and robbed of their most basic rights”.
The eye-opening Times investigation which sparked the measures revealed that the largely overlooked workers of nail salons are not only grossly underpaid, but also routinely exploited by their employers. While many salon customers may have suspected supporting less than ideal working conditions in exchange for their affordable manicures, Sarah Nir’s Times article exposed cases in which salon workers were not only not being paid fairly, but at times not being paid at all. One New York City salon advertising jobs in a local Chinese newspaper offered its prospective workers a starting wage of $10 a day. For context, the minimum wage in New York State is $8.75 an hour.
With more than 17,000 of these salons in the United States, this is a far-reaching industry which has grown enormously in the last couple of decades. Immigrants in particular are most often the victims of this industry, susceptible because they are frequently unfamiliar with applicable labour regulations and relieved to have found any work at all.
In order to combat the rampant unlawful practices and unsafe working conditions, Cuomo has launched a multi-agency Enforcement Task Force, combining the strength of the Departments of State, Labor, Health, Taxation and Finance and the Workers’ Compensation Board Team. Immediate actions of this Task Force will include the implementation of new health and safety regulations, new enforcement actions, new regulations for salons which will require them to secure insurance policies to cover claims for unpaid wages, and the implementation of regulations regarding mandatory postings about employee rights and notices visible to the public. The announcement from the governor’s office states that, “The Task Force announced today will greatly strengthen enforcement capabilities and bring new tools to bear in cleaning up the nail salon industry.”
The Task Force has set up a toll-free number for nail salon workers, and for those concerned about abuses and poor working conditions in New York nail salons. More information about the Task Force can be found on the New York State governor’s website.