N.Y.: Cuomo Launches Comprehensive Effort to Protect Nail Salon Workers

By Rosemarie Lally Jun 9, 2015
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A multi-pronged regulatory, legislative, and public education program intended to protect workers in the nail salon industry was launched by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo May 18, 2015.

Stating that many nail salon employees endure unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices, Cuomo said that the situation demands immediate action. Cuomo, noting that existing statutes impede the state’s ability to act swiftly to protect workers and the public, introduced legislation focused on providing the state with greater enforcement authority and providing workers wiath additional training and job resources.

Proposed legislation would authorize the Department of State to take immediate action against a noncomplying business, allowing it to shut down a nail salon by halting unlicensed or uninsured activities and to impose higher fines for violations than currently allowed.

The initiative was undertaken one week after Cuomo announced the creation of a multi-agency task force to prevent and remedy unlawful practices and unsafe working conditions in the nail salon industry. The task force’s enforcement teams will implement new health and safety regulations for nail salon employees and bring enforcement actions to recover unpaid wages, issue fines and penalties for violations of all relevant laws and regulations, assess damages, and evaluate whether to revoke the license of violators.

The new program also would allow unlicensed nail practitioners to register with the state as trainees, instead of relying on prohibitively expensive private education programs, so that they could continue to work while studying for their licensing exams.

Further administrative changes call for the Department of State to offer licensing exams in Nepali, Tibetan, and Vietnamese, clarify the license application to highlight the legal requirements for obtaining a license, and post free training materials on its website. Free English classes offered through the Office of New Americans will be expanded to include New York City.

The state also enacted new regulations for nail salons including:

*As a condition of obtaining a license, all nail salons must secure a bond or insurance policy to cover failure to pay legal wages and other general business liabilities.

*Salon owners must provide adequate supplies of masks/respirators, nitrile gloves, and eye protection to all nail workers and nail salon workers will be required to wear appropriate personal protective equipment.

*In consultation with federal safety agencies, the state Department of Health will conduct a health review of potentially hazardous chemicals used in salons to determine their potential adverse effects of and safe levels of exposure.

*Salons will be required to post a workers’ Bill of Rights, translated into multiple languages, that notifies salon workers of their rights to a legal wage and a safe working environment.

*Any business that receives a “cease and desist” hearing notice is required to post the notice in the window of the salon.

Key partners working with the state to help educate employers and employees include the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Adhikaar, National Employment Law Project, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Korean-American Nail Salon Association, Hispanic Cosmetology Beauty Chamber of Commerce, and Latino Justice and Catholic Migration Services.

A public outreach campaign will include a series of educational forums for both businesses and employees, public service announcements on television and radio, and information in local newspapers.

Rosemarie Lally, J.D., is a freelance legal writer and editor based in Washington, D.C.

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