Employees of a chain of nail salons in New York City filed a class-action lawsuit against the owners for allegedly paying them $60 or less a day.
The suit says the salons, Nailsway, Naulo Nails, Nailsmetic and Nailscure, required plaintiffs Blanca Fernandez and Gloria Marca to work 10-hour shifts and also often denied them breaks. If a court finds their claims to be true, the salons would be in violation of labor law requiring workers to be paid the minimum wage, which is $8.75 an hour or $5 an hour with tips in New York, and time-and-a-half for putting in more than 40 hours a week, as well as giving meal and rest breaks. Gregory Filosa, the lawyer representing Fernandez and Marca, said the class would likely end up including more than 50 people.
The lawsuit comes after the city’s nail salon industry came under scrutiny in an investigation by the New York Times, which interviewed more than 150 workers and found that most were paid less than minimum wage, while some aren’t paid at all, instead paying their employers for the ability to work and be trained in the salons. Some made as little as $10 a day. It also uncovered rampant wage theft, where tips were withheld and workers were made to work overtime without extra pay. A previous survey of the industry by the National Law Employment Project found that more than a third of workers in beauty salons were paid less than minimum wage.
But Filosa said Fernandez and Marca came to him before the article was published. It’s also not the first time New York City salons have been hit by lawsuits from workers. Last year, manicurists filed a class-action lawsuit against the owner of Envy Nails, claiming they were paid as little as $5 a day but made to work 11-hour days, six days a week without overtime and earning commissions as little as $3 per manicure. Other lawsuits have been filed against a salon in East Northport for paying employees $1.50 an hour for 66-hour workweeks and against a Harlem salon that didn’t pay workers anything on slow days.
The Times article alleged that labor officials rarely took action against the industry. The city’s labor department conducted its first sweep ever last year and about a month after the reporter raised concerns. After that sweep, investigators found 116 wage violations at 29 salons.
In the wake of the Times article’s publication, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced emergency measures to crack down on wage and health violations in nail salons, including a task force charged with conducting salon-by-salon investigations, which will shut down those that don’t pay employees back wages or are unlicensed. It will also create new rules to protect workers’ health and begin an education campaign around their rights. Filosa said that campaign could lead to more lawsuits as workers realize their employers are violating the law.
Before the article, another lawmaker had suggested a different way to regulate the industry, by expanding the letter grades the city assigns to restaurants based on health code violations to beauty salons and barber shops. The proposal aimed to increase safety for workers and consumers and to spur salons to get licensed.