Earlier this week, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that a multiagency task force will conduct investigations of nail salons and institute new rules that salons must comply with to protect manicurists from potentially dangerous chemicals found in nail products. He also stated that, “New York State has a long history of confronting wage theft and unfair labor practices head on…and with the formation of this new Enforcement Task Force, we are aggressively following in that tradition.” Governor Cuomo vowed that nail salons that did not comply with orders to pay workers back wages, or are unlicensed, would be shut down.

Governor Cuomo’s initiative follows a two-part investigation by Maslin Nir regarding the mistreatment of nail salon workers in New York. Her report was published in the New York Times last week and has commanded attention.   The comprehensive report was a result of 13 months of researching and reporting and shed light on the unfair labor practices and mistreatment of various nail salon workers. The report exposed the stories of several immigrant nail salon workers who stated that their employers required them to pay $100 to $200 as a “training fee” just to begin working at the salon, and were not paid any wages for months, that is, until their bosses deemed them fit to earn wages. In one instance, when one worker finally was paid, she stated she was paid $30 per day. Although more experienced workers are sometimes paid more, i.e., $40-$80 per day, it still is below minimum wage due to their long working hours. Workers’ tips have also been docked by owners due to minor errors, and overtime pay is basically unheard of in this industry even though workers routinely work up to 12 hour days. Unfortunately, these stories documented in Maslin’s report are commonplace to many workers in this industry.

Maslin further reported that many of these workers endure humiliation and physical abuse by owners and are constantly video-recorded as they work. The report stated that many nail salon workers are Asian and Hispanic with limited English-speaking capabilities and are in this country illegally and are reluctant to report violations or complain because they are just happy to have a job.

The full New York Times report can be found here.