New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a multi-agency enforcement task force to confront the wage theft and unfair labor practices in the state’s nail salon industry.
The measure comes after an investigative series by The New York Times revealed a litany of wrongs of abuses endured by workers in the industry.
Sarah Maskin Nir for the New York Times reported: “The New York Times interviewed more than 150 nail salon workers and owners, in four languages, and found that a vast majority of workers are paid below minimum wage; sometimes they are not even paid. Workers endure all manner of humiliation, including having their tips docked as punishment for minor transgressions, constant video monitoring by owners, even physical abuse. Employers are rarely punished for labor and other violations.”
The series highlighted May 2014 investigation by the Department of Labor in which 116 violations of state labor law were found in the 29 nail salons examined.
“We will not stand idly by as workers are deprived of their hard-earned wages and robbed of their most basic rights,” Gov. Cuomo said in a press release. “This Task Force will crack down on these kinds of abuses in the nail salon industry, enforce all of New York’s health and safety regulations, and help ensure that no one – regardless of their citizenship status or what language they speak – is illegally victimized by their employer.”
Immediate actions to be taken by the task force include:
- Multi-Jurisdiction Approach: Task Force member agencies will work together to implement new health and safety regulations for nail salon employees and engage in new enforcement actions to recover unpaid wages, issue fines and penalties for violations of all relevant laws and regulations, assess damages and evaluate whether to revoke the license of violators.
- New Health and Safety Regulations: Task Force members will implement new workplace safety regulations for nail salons that require the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves and face masks where warranted, and vigorously enforce existing regulations that grant all nail salon employees the right to demand and wear PPE at any time. New regulations will also require each work station to be equipped with personal fans. Laws and regulations regarding ventilation will be strictly enforced.
- Surety Required: Task Force members will implement new regulations requiring every nail salon to secure either a bond or expanded insurance policy to cover claims for unpaid wages as part of its licensure. In addition, where a nail salon fails to comply with an order to pay assessed back wages, an additional bond to cover those wages and two years’ worth of future wages will be demanded by the Department of Labor.
- License Revocation: Task Force members will move to revoke the business license of any egregious offender who is out of compliance with state law. The Department of State has jurisdiction to seek a license revocation of businesses out of compliance and will take such action where warranted.
- Mandatory Postings about Employee Rights: Nail salons will be required to post notices visible to all employees and in multiple languages that describe the employees’ right to full, legal wages and a safe working environment. Postings will include hotline numbers to report complaints and information about available resources.
- Shutting Down Unlicensed Businesses: The Department of State will immediately initiate proceedings to shut down unlicensed businesses.
- Notice Visible to the Public: The Department of State will issue new regulations requiring any nail salon noticed to appear at a cease and desist proceeding to post the legal notice in the window of the business in a manner visible to the public.
- Education and Outreach: Task Force members will conduct a series of education and outreach actions that will inform workers of their rights under the law in multiple languages and offer resources and assistance. This outreach will include information regarding confidential reporting opportunities, to encourage workers – including those who may be undocumented – to come forward to report abuses. Outreach and education efforts will also target business owners as to their legal responsibilities regarding wages, health and safety.
- Community-Based Partnership: Task Force members will work with community based organizations to identify violators and to encourage workers to come forward.