Governor Andrew M. Cuomo introduced a comprehensive package of legislation and new regulations to protect workers in the nail salon industry. This complements the work of the Governor’s multi-agency task force, which has enforcement teams in the field to recover stolen wages and shut down the industry’s worst offenders. Additionally, the Governor is launching a public education and outreach campaign to help workers understand their rights and ensure that business owners live up to their responsibilities and obligations under the law.
“Our point is simple: exploitation has no place in the state of New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “The rights of nail salon employees must be respected, and we are launching an aggressive crackdown on the industry to make sure that happens. With new legislation and emergency regulations, a public outreach campaign in multiple languages, and a thorough investigation of the chemicals that are used, we are standing up for those who have been unable to stand up for themselves. Today New York State is sending the message loud and clear: we will not tolerate abusive or unsafe working conditions – period.”
This announcement comes just days after Governor Cuomo announced his multi-agency Task Force to quickly correct and prevent unlawful practices and unsafe working conditions in the nail salon industry.
Many nail salon employees endure unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices. Inadequate ventilation, lack of personal protective equipment, non-payment of wages, nonexistent worker’s compensation coverage, missing business liability insurance, and the unlicensed operation of facilities jeopardize the health and safety of employees and patrons alike. The situation demands immediate action; however, existing statutes impede the State’s ability to act swiftly in order to protect the public and provide employee justice. Therefore, the Governor today introduced legislation focused on providing the State with adequate enforcement authority and providing workers with accessible training and job resources.
Authority to Shut Down Businesses that Violate the Law: The Governor introduced legislation that would authorize the Department of State to take immediate actions against a business that is not following the law. The bill will allow the Department to shut down a business by ordering the cessation of unlicensed or uninsured activities and impose financial penalties at higher levels than is currently permitted in response to violations.
Training and Job Resources for Workers: The Governor introduced legislation that will establish new opportunities for unlicensed nail practitioners to register with the state as trainees, instead of relying on often prohibitively high cost education programs, so they may continue to work while studying for their licensing exam. With this tool, workers can more effectively obtain relevant training and explore opportunities in the industry without being held hostage to any employer. Further, all nail salon workers will have access to the full range of resources available through the Department of Labor to find a job.
Several administrative changes are also being implemented, which include:
Offering Additional Languages: The Department of State will begin administering license exams in the languages of Nepali, Tibetan and Vietnamese, in addition to the following languages currently provided, which are English, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, Russian and Chinese.
Clarifying the License Application: The license application will be clarified to highlight for all applicants what is and is not legally required to obtain a license.
Offering Free English Classes: Office of New Americans English language classes, through Opportunity Centers and the Cell Ed program, will be expanded to include the New York City area. Information about these programs will be provided during the public outreach campaign.
Free Training: Free training materials will be posted on the Department of State’s website and distributed through community centers to help workers more effectively learn the curriculum and study for exams.
The State also enacted new regulations for nail salons that range from surety requirements to protective equipment standards to posting notices. The regulations include:
New Bond and Insurance Requirements: All nail salons — as a condition of obtaining a license — must secure a bond or insurance policy to cover failure to pay legal wages and other general business liabilities. In the event that a nail salon owner is ordered to pay back wages, the new requirement will ensure that the business has the critical funds to meet its legal obligation.
Personal Protective Equipment and Ventilation Requirements: Owners must provide adequate supplies of masks/respirators, nitrile gloves and eye protection. All nail salon workers will be required to wear masks/respirators when buffing or filing nails or handling acrylic powder, and to wear gloves when handling potentially hazardous chemicals or when skin could be broken. Eye protection will be required when transferring potentially hazardous chemicals in bulk containers and when preparing potentially hazardous chemicals for use. In addition, all workers will be informed through highly visible signage that they have the right to demand masks and gloves and to wear them at any time. These regulations are important first steps toward ensuring that New York State has the safest nail salons in the country. Regulations regarding ventilation systems will also be filed.
Health Review of Chemical Agents: Supplementing the regulatory changes relating to products used in Nail Salons, the Department of Health will consult with and review scientific information from federal agencies, including the United States Environmental Protection, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health to determine the full extent of the knowledge of potential adverse effects of the potentially hazardous chemicals used in nail salons and the levels of exposure that have been shown to occur. DOH will also review the published medical and occupational health literature, consult with other states, work with experts in the field from academia, New York’s network of occupational health clinics, and local health departments, and will engage other stakeholders to assess whether further action is needed on potentially hazardous chemicals found in nail polish. Federal agencies have identified a number of potentially hazardous chemicals in nail salons and new potentially hazardous chemicals are introduced in nail salons over time, requiring ongoing vigilance to determine the potential risk and whether further action is needed to reduce their use by the industry to protect workers and the public.
Bill of Rights: Nail Salons will be required to post, in a place visible to all employees and the public, the Nail Salon Workers’ Bill of Rights which notifies every worker in plain language of their rights to a legal wage and a safer working environment. It will contain a single hotline where workers can ask questions and lodge complaints. The Bill of Rights will be translated into multiple languages and distributed to every salon in the State.
Cease and Desist Postings: This regulation requires any business who receives a “Cease and Desist” hearing notice to post such notice in the window of the establishment so that it is readily viewable by the public.
As the State implements a regulatory and education campaign, new Task Force Enforcement Teams will follow up on the ground to ensure workers are being paid their legal wages and are working in safer environments in compliance with the new rules and regulations. Unlicensed businesses will be ordered to cease operations until they secure the proper licenses. Licensed businesses that are substantially out of compliance with state laws will also face revocation of their license to operate.
Public Outreach Campaign
In addition to advancing legislation and implementing administrative reforms, the Governor is partnering with not-for-profit organizations to advance a robust public education campaign to help business understand their obligations and help workers understand their rights. Task Force members will be joined with community-based organizations, religious groups and community leaders to host a series of public events to thoroughly inform nail salon workers, industry employers and their clients. The targeted education campaign will provide information about the law, workers’ rights, licensing information and the free services and resources available to the public.
Beginning on Wednesday, the State, along with its community partners, will host a series of educational forums for both businesses and employees. The first outreach events will take place in New York and Queens Counties. Several State agencies will be on site to provide attendees with information and services pertaining to business services and compliance. Moreover, the State will have staff on site to discuss and provide the services offered in State career centers including training and other related employment services, such as the JobZone.
The education campaign will also work to clarify for businesses how they can come into and stay in compliance with new and existing Department of State regulations. This information will be provided in multiple languages as well.
Public service announcements on TV and radio and information in local newspapers will be launched in multiple languages to carry the details of the entire program as well as the Task Force hotline number that will connect callers to the information and services. Anyone with questions about nail salons, or who is concerned about proper wages and safe working conditions, should contact the Task Force Hotline at 1-888-469-7365.
Partnering with Community and Business Groups
The State is working with key partners to help educate employers and employees and inform regulatory reform and enforcement efforts. The groups include:
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
National Council of Asian Pacific Americans
National Employment Law Project
Miliann Kang, author of The Managed Hand: Race, Gender and the Body in Beauty Service Work
MinKwon Center for Community Action
New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
Planned Parenthood of New York City
Korean-American Nail Salon Association
The New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce
Hispanic Cosmetology Beauty Chamber of Commerce
Latino Justice and Catholic Migration Services
Rachel Spector, Environmental Justice Attorney, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, said: “New York Lawyers for the Public Interest praises Governor Cuomo for his swift and important actions to raise employment standards in the nail salon industry, reduce workers’ exposure to harmful chemicals, and ensure safe and healthy workplaces. We look forward to working with the Governor on these important initiatives.”
Luna Ranjit, Co-founder & Executive Director, Adhikaar, said: “Adhikaar applauds the Governor for moving to address egregious conditions that exist in the nail salon industry. In particular, we are excited by his efforts to improve access to licenses and to create an apprenticeship program, efforts that will help protect vulnerable workers and provide better job opportunities.”
Haeyoung Yoon, Deputy Program Director, National Employment Law Project, said: “We applaud Governor Cuomo for moving swiftly to tackle widespread wage theft in the nail salon industry by taking important steps to protect and enforce workers’ rights, to make it easier for workers to collect unpaid wages, and to work with the business community to promote their compliance with the law.”
Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, said: “NYCOSH applauds the Governor for moving forward groundbreaking new regulations to create healthy nail salons in New York. Ventilation systems are critical to reducing levels of toxic exposure in nail salons, both for workers and consumers; and personal protective equipment like gloves and respirators are essential protection for nail salon workers.”
Miriam Yeung, Executive Director, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, said: “The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum commends Governor Cuomo for issuing the strongest safety and wage theft protections for nail salon workers in the country, for taking a variety of steps to expand access to licensing exams and safety and labor rights information — especially for making exams and information accessible to the Nepali, Tibetan and Vietnamese communities — and for partnering with community groups to facilitate outreach and education to both salon owners and workers about new regulations and workers’ rights. We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor, workers, owners and consumers to transform nail salons in New York into safe places that provide good jobs for workers — the majority of whom are Asian immigrant women.”
Grace Shim, Executive Director, MinKwon Center for Community Action, said: “Now is the moment for all us to come together to directly address a crisis that affects the whole community. We must involve employers, workers, and customers alike to develop long-term, multi-pronged, comprehensive strategies that both protect vulnerable, immigrant workers and support struggling, immigrant small-business owners. We are happy to partner with the Governor’s office to hold this ‘community forum’ which affords New Yorkers an opportunity to hear from the Governor’s office and to share any questions and concerns they may have. We encourage everyone in the community to attend.”
Quenia Abreu, President & CEO, The New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are proud to be partnering with Governor Cuomo to help educate nail salon owners to ensure they are in compliance with regulations and the law. Improvements in the nail salon industry translate directly to improvements for women and minorities, which is a key part of our mission.”
Charito Cisneros, founder, Hispanic Cosmetology and Beauty Chamber of Commerce, said: “I applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership in ensuring that all nail salon workers are properly trained and licensed, which will improve our industry as a whole. I look forward to working with the State in expanding our efforts to help nail salon workers and their employers.”