Governor Andrew Cuomo has introduced legislation that will help protect the state's nail salon workers, by both shutting down the industry's most pernicious offenders and by launching a public education campaign to better help employees understand their rights.
"Our point is simple: exploitation has no place in the state of New York," Cuomo said in a statement. "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."
The two-pronged legislative package would not only authorize the state to shut down or heavily fine businesses not following the law, it would also create opportunities for unlicensed nail workers to register with the state as trainees, in order to work while studying to be licensed. If passed, employees would also have access to the various resources available through the Department of Labor, rather than finding themselves tethered to any one potentially abusive employer.
Other changes also include administering license exams in additional languages, clarifying what is legally required to obtain a license and the availability of cost-free English classes and training for exams.
Cuomo's legislation would also more strongly regulate insurance policies, require owners to provide employees' protective equipment and examine the detrimental effects of chemicals used. Most notably, manicurists would be hooked up to respirators when working on acrylic nails and be required to wear goggles when transferring hazardous substances like nail polish remover between containers.
Salon owners would also be required to post an employee Bill of Rights, as well as publicly post cease and desist letters in the event they they are received. Enforcement teams will be on the lookout for violators, and unlicensed businesses will be ordered to close up shop until they've secured the proper permits. Even authorized businesses found to be out of compliance could lose their licenses.
The measures come on the heels of a investigation by the Times published earlier this month, which uncovered the galling conditions under which many workers toiled. The legislative package is the work of Cuomo's promptly convened emergency task force, and Mayor Bill de Blasio was also quick to announce a city-wide investigation into salon working conditions, despite its limited jurisdiction.
Two manicurists have also filed a class action suit against four nail salons, claiming they were mistreated, underpaid and overworked.