Queens beauty salons settle with AG over wage theft

Queens beauty salons settle with AG over wage theft
Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

A Jackson Heights hair salon and a Sunnyside nail salon have entered into settlements with the state attorney general after the former tried to make its employees sign bogus contracts and the latter severely underpaid a manicurist, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office said.

Tatyana Enterprises Inc., at 95-28 Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights, had asked its employees to sign backdated contracts which claimed they were not employees but independent contractors after one of the employees was hurt on the job in July 2011, the AG’s office said. When eight employees refused to sign the contracts, they were fired, the AG’s office said. The business is owned by Tatyana Muratov.

The Jackson Heights salon also demanded through the contracts that employees not do similar work within a 15-mile radius and did not pay its employees overtime, the AG’s office said.

Bliss Nail Salon, at 45-05 Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside, had a Nepali immigrant with limited English skills work as a “trainee” from March to May 2012, the AG’s office said. In return, the owner at first only gave her small amounts of cash for her food, and then after a month and a half paid her $30 for an average 10-hour work day, the AG’s office said. She was also asked to pay a deposit to work at Bliss Nail, the AG said.

“All New York businesses must pay legally required wages to employees and respect their workers’ basic rights,” the AG said in a statement.

Two community-based organizations took up the workers’ causes, which led to the AG’s office’s lawsuits against the businesses. The Jackson Heights-based immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York supported the fired Tatyana workers, while the Woodside-based Nepali advocacy group Adhikaar helped the manicurist, the AG’s office said.

“We thank the attorney general for recognizing that enforcing minimum wage laws is very important for low-wage workers, including those who work long hours in salons across the state, and for working hard to achieve justice in this case,” Luna Ranjit, executive director of Adhikaar, said in a statement.

Tatyana Enterprises agreed to pay $40,000 in total to the eight fired employees while Bliss Nail agreed to pay $5,000 to the manicurist, the AG said.

Deborah Axt, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, applauded the AG’s office’s work in a statement.

“In New York state, low-wage workers fall victim to wage theft in considerable proportions,” Axt said, “Our government has a duty to protect this segment of our workforce whose hard labor makes a significant contribution to our economy.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.