FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mónica Novoa, NYCOSH
New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition Celebrates First Day of Wage Bond Enforcement
Coalition Warns Against Employers Side-Stepping Law Through Worker Misclassification
New York, NY— The New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition celebrated the first day of enforcement of the new nail salons wage bond requirement with workers who benefit from the bond’s implementation. Coalition members have worked for the past decade on health and safety and wage and hour violations affecting nail salon workers and welcomed the wage bond as a critical means of protecting nail salon workers. Nail salon owners are required by the State as of today, October 6th, to secure a wage bond or they will face newly enacted fines and penalties, which could include the closure of their business for non-compliance.
The Coalition stated optimism about moving forward to engage with businesses that are interested in modeling healthy salons that prioritize the well-being of workers – from compliance with wage regulations complete safety and health in the workplace.
“The wage bond is part of the cost of doing business and only comes out to about 3 dollars per day for the entire salon. That’s pennies on the manicure,” said Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of NYCOSH and co-founder of the Coalition. “We’re grateful to the Governor’s Office for remaining steadfast in the bond’s implementation date and understanding the real value that this has for New York’s primarily Asian and Latina nail salon workers.”
Coalition member Workers United has interviewed more than 500 people and in every case, workers have not been paid overtime. August inspection numbers indicated that there were 901 violations found in 182 salons; 42% of the salons inspected had violated wage and hour or overtime laws.
“The bond requirement is a step forward to holding accountable employers who are caught breaking their promises to workers,” said Julie Kelly, General Manager and Vice President of Workers United NY NJ Regional Joint Board. “In addition to the important stop gap this provides, we urge action to ensure that employers aren’t cutting corners by misclassifying workers as independent contractors just to save a buck on both the cost of the wage bond and other forms of worker protection like workers’ compensation.”
According to Governor Cuomo’s office, 98% of nail salon owners who have made a good-faith effort to secure a wage bond have been able to do so. The Governor’s office has made clear they will work with any owner who, for whatever reason, experiences difficulty securing a bond. State officials held 15 informational forums to help them comply with the new law.
Employers misclassify workers so that they don’t have to pay minimum wage and overtime, social security benefits, unemployment and worker compensation insurance and provide other protections for workers.
“If a salon owner sets a worker’s schedule, the worker does not rent their workspace, the owner sets the rates paid by customers, and the worker uses the salon owner’s tools and equipment, the worker is likely to be considered an employee, not an independent contractor,” said Gavin Kearney, Director of Environmental Justice at NYLPI.
To curb this illegal practice of misclassifying employees as independent contractors, the Coalition will continue to inform nail salon workers of their rights, the DOL hotline, and also inform about available recourse in cases of worker exploitation.
“In the past when workers have spoken up against wage theft and pursued legal action, they have not been able to collect the money owed to them because the salon owners claim that they do not have the resources to pay,” said Luna Ranjit, Executive Director of Adhikaar and co-founder of the NYHNSC. “The wage bond will ensure that the salon owners cannot use that excuse, and hopefully will deter them from stealing wages to begin with.”
For workers, the stakes here are extraordinarily high. Marta U., a single mother from Jackson Heights, worked eleven-hour shifts five days a week for over five years in a Long Island salon and has experienced wage theft in her salon.
“When I had my newborn, I had no option but to leave my baby with a babysitter and work out of necessity, sacrificing time with my family, and to not be paid what is owed to me is not right,” she said. “There should be protections for us. This is abuse.”
The climate of exploitation in nail salons goes far beyond failure to pay wages. Workers are breathing toxic fumes which cause cancer and reproductive problems, discriminated against based on their race, and marginalized in jobs where they are fired and blacklisted if they complain. In Marta’s salon, the owner would force the worker to give clients massages on their feet without gloves, despite clients having visible skin issues, such as fungus. When she caught an infection on her hands, the manager responded by saying, “Oh, it’s nothing; stop crying.”
The Coalition remains committed to prioritizing worker organizing to secure worker health, safety and economic wellbeing. Racial justice, human rights and public health will continue to guide the work of the Coalition as primarily Latina and Asian immigrants are regularly exposed to various safety and health hazards and wage theft on the job. The Coalition seeks to build holistic health in nail salons, championing worker health as public health – worthy of investment.
The New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition formed in 2014 to ensure that all nail salon workers are justly compensated and able to work in safe and healthy environments. Members of the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition include: Adhikaar, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, National Employment Law Project, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Planned Parenthood of New York City, and Workers United New York/New Jersey Joint Board (SEIU).