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Last updated: November 13, 2017

New York Cracks Down On Nail Salon Workers’ Abuse

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The New York Times Details Slave-Like Working Conditions


On May 7, The New York Times released a year-in-the-making, bombshell undercover report, detailing the horrible abuses experienced by nail salon workers in the New York metro area. In many cases, nail salon workers—most of which lack English fluency and hold illegal immigrant status—were subject to slave-like conditions, physical abuse and denial of the most basic workers’ rights. A rightful media frenzy ensued and, in response, the New York Governor enacted an emergency task force to put an end to these inhumane workplace practices.



“[The 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,” said the Govenor.


The report, “The Price of Nice Nails” by Times reporter Sarah Maslin Nirr, found rampant exploitation of nail salon workers throughout New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut. The most jarring fact Sarah found, however, was that many of these salon owners felt as though they were in the right. “They were very open [with me] because they did not believe themselves to be doing anything wrong. The owners I spoke to feel they are doing something heroic, by hiring people who might not otherwise be able to have a job,” explains Sarah.


Some of the abuses Sarah and the Times discovered included:


– Workers had to pay $100-$200 for “training” fees—although they never received training; they simply had to pay a fee to get a job.


– After paying the fee, workers would not receive pay from their employers until weeks—sometimes months—after starting at the salon. This was based on the salon owner’s discretion—once they felt the worker was skilled enough, then they could receive pay.


 After three months on the job with no pay, one Manhattan-based worker received her base pay—$30/day or $3/hr.


 In lower traffic salons—in the Bronx and Queens—pay fell as low as $1.50/hr. Some workers were forced to become “commission-based,” meaning they were even denied an hourly wage. These workers would earn a meager $266 dollars from a 66-hour work week. Minimum wage in New York is $8.75/hr. 


– Workers were subject to 10- to 12-hour shifts without overtime pay—working six or even seven days a week.


– Workers were denied tips—or their tips were not covered under federal and state regulations that permit employers to pay employees less than minimum wage, so long as their tips make up for the loss of hourly wages.


 Workers would be denied wages for minor mistakes, were subject to constant video monitoring from their owners, forced to pay to drink water and, in some instances, were verbally humiliated and physically beaten for not meeting the salon’s bottom line.


To report abuses in your salon, please call 1-888-469-7365.