Nail Salon Story Sparks Outrage Over Abuse Allegations

A recent investigative story by the New York Times has many Americans talking about the abuses faced by manicurists throughout the country. Photo of earnings statement

Although the story focused on workers in New York, it has sparked uproar in some labor circles over how badly mistreated some nail salon employees are. The piece, which is very detailed, can be read by clicking the source link at the bottom of this page.

The story begins by explaining how many women working in nail salons live in squalor. Often, the women are undocumented immigrants from countries like Korea and China. Some pay fees to begin working at salons (owners often call these training fees), where many receive no compensation during the first couple of months of work. After this period, the employees often are paid below minimum wage, with some making as little as $30 per day while working 10-to-12-hour shifts.

The salons featured in the article allegedly paid workers so little due to the small price of procedures at the establishments. “You can be assured, if you go to a place with rock-bottom prices, that chances are the workers’ wages are being stolen,” one labor expert told the Times.

At the time the story was published, some salons were under investigation for wage theft, while others were facing class action lawsuits from former employees. Many salons said they were paying employees based on New York’s “tipped worker” laws, which allow some establishments where tips are accepted to pay less than minimum wage. However, as the Times noted, “interviews with scores of workers revealed rates of pay so low that the so-called tip calculation is virtually meaningless.”

After the story was published, due to backlash, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered emergency measures to combat wage theft at the salons, saying that he would put together a multiagency taskforce to conduct investigations.

As we mentioned above, the story generated a tremendous amount of national attention. A PBS Newshour piece mentioned that these illegal practices might be occurring not only in New York, but also in “Los Angeles, San Francisco, some other places.”

Should I Contact an Attorney About Wage Theft?

Wage theft occurs when employees are paid below federal, state or local minimum wage guidelines. Keep in mind, if you are a tipped worker, in California, many labor agencies regulate wages. In most cases, any tips received for services performed should go directly to an employee, and must not be shared among managers or owners. If you believe that you are being paid less than minimum wage or your employment status is being misclassified, you should speak to our labor attorneys.

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Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob—Los Angeles employment attorneys