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Op-Ed: Not all nail salons are equal

BY LOIS CHRISTIE

It’s been a long time in coming, but finally, the city and state are working to enforce codes for the nail salon industry.

As the owner of an award-winning luxury salon in business for 44 years in Bayside, I welcome these changes because many others involved in the industry have exploited cheap labor and bent the rules to make a profit.

Our salon employs qualified manicurists (now referred to as nail technicians) to service our clients. New York State requires a license to perform nail and waxing services.

Full-service salons had difficulty finding qualified nail technicians and also found itself competing with smaller nail salons that sprang up across Queens offering cheaper prices for all kinds of nail services. These salons employ unskilled and unlicensed workers.

The beauty industry faced the difficulty of language barriers in finding employees. We have hired a manager fluent in Korean who has helped us attract and train nail technicians for our business.

The nail salon industry today is a billion-dollar business, but questions abound as to who is working at these salons. Who trains them? Are they licensed? Where do the salons hire them? How are they paid?

Recent reports have revealed that many of these small nail salons with workers being paid in cash and kept off the books are denied any kind of benefits and forced to work long hours. Our business abides by the rules; we pay our taxes, as do our employees, and give our employees wages well above the minimum as well as paid vacations, training, health care and retirement benefits, and are provided sterilized tools – all of which I believe these workers are entitled to and deserve.

I do not believe employees should be forced to work more than a 40-hour week. In my opinion, that is an unfair business practice.

Before getting any service, my advice to customers is to ask to see all of a salon’s licenses and sterilized equipment. If a customer goes to a salon offering a $15 mani/pedi, they should probably assume they are receiving services from underpaid, exploited workers.

There are many salons in Queens offering very high-end, excellent services. Regardless of the culture of salon operators and employees, all businesses must operate under the same laws to make salons safe for clients and competitive. We must all pay our taxes and follow state regulations.

Christie is the president and hair color director of Christie & Co. Salon in Bayside.

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