Will New York’s Crack Down On Nail Salons Benefit Workers & Customers Alike?

July 17, 2015  |  

In May, the New York Times did an investigative piece on the abuse of labor laws that frequently plagued New York nail salons as well, as the harmful chemicals manicurists are subjected to daily. Now two months later, changes have been implemented across the industry striving for better labor relations… but not all changes are positive.

With some 755 salons inspected and 1,799 violations handed out by a task force created under the leadership of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the state is looking more closely at how salons are doing their business reported the Times. This Thursday, Gov. Cuomo signed into law a new measure that revamps how the industry in licensed and how rule-breakers will be handled, but there are many slipping through the cracks.

Gov. Cuomo stated in an address that in the eyes of the state of New York, undocumented workers are still workers and must not be exploited.

But change may not be happening as swiftly as the state and workers would hope. While some salons such as one Westchester nail salon has allowed its manicurists to begin taking lunch breaks, others like Manhattan’s Flower Nail & Spa has cut workers’ hours to avoid paying overtime.

The state of New York has issued a newly required worker’s bill of rights which is supposed to hang in all businesses. However, the Times found that 40 percent of salons surveyed did not put display the document.

With the new state rules, manicurists must:

  • Wear gloves when handling items such as cotton balls soaked in nail polish remover.
  • Wear goggles when pouring acetone and other chemicals.
  • Respirator masks must be made available for workers when buffing and filing nails as well as when sculpting acrylic nails.

The Times survey also found that gloves were only being used by just 15 percent of salons. However, not abiding to each and every rule does not mean manicurists aren’t a bit happier than they were before. For some, the hourly wage has been moved from $6 to $8, for example.

“Our salary is getting close to the standard level of minimum wage,” Peng Xu, a salon worker, said. “And it feels good.”


While some Westchester and Long Island salons are noticing positive changes others have been much slower to implement updates to their business. From Flower Nail & Spa cutting their workers’ hours to avoid overtime to other salons not making changes to the hourly wage, violators are still rampant across the city.

Some patrons have stopped going to salons entirely, not wanting to support unethical work behaviors. The only problem is it’s hard to know which salons are abiding by the rules and which are not.

Are you a regular nail salon patron? What are your thoughts on all this?

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