NY Bans Mistreatment of Foreign Manicurists

May 12, 2015

A New York Times exposé about exploitation of manicurists in New York State, who are often undocumented workers, led governor Andrew Cuomo to put in place special emergency orders to ensure their fair treatment. 

The Governor ordered the creation of an Enforcement Task Force that is also charged with promulgating rules which will protect salon workers from the health hazards posed by nail product chemicals as well as guarantee they are fairly paid.

Because so many manicurists are not proficient in English, nail salons will now be obligated to post signs informing them of their rights in five languages, in addition to English.

The most common languages spoken and read by foreign-born manicurists are Korean, Chinese and Spanish.

In a public statement, Gov. Cuomo asserted, “New York State has a long history of confronting wage theft and unfair labor practices head on and today, with the formation of this new Enforcement Task Force, we are aggressively following in that tradition. We will not stand idly by as workers are deprived of their hard earned wages and robbed of their most basic rights.”

The Enforcement Task Force will also be investigating NY salons to enforce compliance with the new rules and verify all are properly licensed -- any manicuring business not legally licensed or that fails to pay back wages will be ordered closed.

New rules additionally require that each licensed facility is properly ventilated to decrease the possibility of injury by toxic chemical fumes, and that all manicurists wear both gloves and masks.

Since so many of New York’s manicure workers are undocumented foreigners, they are often afraid to report sub-standard conditions in salons. Thus, it will be the policy of the Enforcement Task Force to refrain from asking questions about the legal status of manicurists.

In addition, it will conduct an educational campaign to notify manicurists of their legal rights -- rights that exist even if they are illegal immigrants.

DENISE NOE

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