New York Governor orders emergency measures for nail salons

Following a two-part article published by The New York Times last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered emergency measures to formally address the issues investigated in the feature, titled The Price of Nails (part one) and Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers (part two). These include wage theft and health hazards to manicurists employed in some New York State salons.

In a statement on Sunday, Cuomo said the plans will be effective immediately by a multiagency task force that will conduct salon-by-salon inspections and institute new rules that establishments must follow. In addition, an education campaign in six languages to inform manicurists – who are often Korean, Chinese or Spanish – of their rights will be brought in. 

Nail salons that are found to be unlicensed or do not comply with orders to pay back worker’s wages will be shut down.

In an effort to address the exploitation of immigrant workers uncovered in the exposé, salons will be required to post signs in clear view that inform workers of their rights, including the fact that it is illegal to work without wages or to pay money for a job — something else which was found to be common practice in the industry, according to workers and owners interviewed by The New York Times. The signs will also be in half a dozen languages.

Also under the new rules, manicurists must always wear gloves to reduce the risks of contracting skin conditions such as fungal infections from clients, and to avoid developing burns from handling hazardous chemicals.

The plan will also require masks to be worn to give better protection from chemicals such as dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde, which have been linked to leukemia and foetal defects. According to occupational health experts, the hospital-style masks often worn by manicurists do almost nothing to prevent exposure to these fumes, reported The New York Times.

Finally, salons will be required to keep workspaces adequately ventilated to clear the air of fumes.

In a statement, Governor Cuomo said: “We will not stand idly by as workers are deprived of their hard-earned wages and robbed of their most basic rights. This 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 victimised by their employer.”

In 2013, Professional Beauty asked nail industry experts to comment on a similar report in The Sunday Times, which revealed the presence of illegally trafficked workers employed in low cost UK nail bars. Read the story here and let us know what you think in the comments below – does the UK industry suffer from the same problems and do we need a similar crackdown?