May 11, 2015
Departments of State, Labor, Health, Taxation and Finance and the Workers’ Compensation Board Team Up to Stop Wage Theft, Unsafe Working Conditions and Unlicensed Businesses
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of a multi-agency Enforcement Task Force that will move immediately to prevent unlawful practices and unsafe working conditions in the nail salon industry. The Task Force will also recover unpaid wages and shut down unlicensed businesses and businesses out of compliance with state law.
“New York State has a long history of confronting wage theft and unfair labor practices head on and today, with the formation of this new Enforcement Task Force, we are aggressively following in that tradition,” Governor Cuomo said. “We will not stand idly by as workers are deprived of their hard-earned wages and robbed of their most basic rights. 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.”
The immediate actions 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.
Every worker complaint that is reported to the state is investigated. When a pattern of rampant violations within an industry appears, the state will conduct a proactive, multi-agency investigation and has done so in the carwash, restaurant and construction industries.
In May 2014, the Department of Labor conducted a comprehensive investigation into nail salons that was recently highlighted as part of a two-part series in The New York Times. The investigation of 29 nail salons resulted in the finding of 116 violations of state labor law. The disturbing worker stories reflect that the nail salon industry is rife with worker abuse. The Task Force announced today will greatly strengthen enforcement capabilities and bring new tools to bear in cleaning up the nail salon industry.
New York State continues to be a national leader in returning money to workers who were not paid the proper minimum wage, overtime pay or fringe benefits. In 2014, the Department of Labor disbursed $30.2 million -- the highest amount in history -- to nearly 27,000 New York workers. New York State also has the second largest enforcement staff in the nation.
The state employs dozens of investigators who speak multiple languages. All state agencies have comprehensive language access services in all languages available to employees and customers.
The Task Force strongly urges any worker who has not been paid the proper wages, or anyone concerned about safety, working conditions or other abuses at nail salons to contact the Task Force at 1-888-469-7365.