BY ANGELA MATUA
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has enacted emergency measures for nail salon workers amid reports regarding wage disparities and hazardous health conditions within the industry.
A multi-agency task force will conduct investigations, mandate rules to protect manicurists from dangerous chemicals in nail products and educate nail salon workers of their rights, according to a statement.
Public Advocate Letitia James last week held a rally to pass the Nail Salon Health and Safety Bill which would work to protect nail salon workers from exposure to chemicals and to increase salon inspections to make sure they comply with proposed safety measures.
“I commend Governor Cuomo for taking strong action to improve the conditions of these salons,” James said on Monday. “We must stand together for our most vulnerable workers who are being exploited and provide them with the basic rights ensured to every New Yorker.”
Lois Christie, owner of Christie & Co. Salon and Spa in Bayside, is a strong supporter of James’ bill and said the emergency measures should have been put in place long ago.
“I think it’s long overdue,” Christie said. “Most smaller salons, I know this for a fact, not only do they underpay employees, they pay in cash and are not paying taxes.”
Nail salons that do not pay workers back wages or are unlicensed will be shut down.
They will also be required to publicly post signs that inform workers of their rights and that it is illegal to work without payment. According to a two-part New York Times expose, employers would often underpay or completely withhold wages from employees and would charge them a fee to be trained on the job.
Manicurists will also be required to wear gloves and masks to reduce the risks of skin conditions and exposure to chemicals.
“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,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We will not stand idly by as workers are deprived of their hard-earned wages and robbed of their most basic rights.”