New York City Nail Salon Workers Sue Over Wages, Benefits

Date: May 15, 2015

Suit Follows New York Times Story On Wage, Safety Issues

After a recent New York Times exposé that alleged wage theft and hazardous conditions at many nail salons across New York City, two workers have filed a proposed class action suit against four city nail salons claiming minimum wage and overtime law violations. In the suit Fernandez v. Nailsway Inc, filed in US District Court in Manhattan, the manicurists say the Upper East Side salons paid workers less than $60 for each 10 hour shift and denied them breaks. One employee in the suit, Blanca Fernandez, worked at a Nailsway salon for five years. The suit alleges that for her 10-plus hour shifts four times per week she earned $60 cash, far less than the city’s minimum wage of $8.75 per hour.

Attorney Gregory Filosa, representing the workers, said they approached him about the case prior to the Times piece. Claims of minimum wage violations go back six years while claims of overtime and break violations reflect the last three years. Filosa said if others join the suit against minimum wage violations, there will be more than 50 current and former employees of the salons involved. He projects that the Times piece may lead to similar suits “as employees realize their bosses have been violating labor laws.”

In addition to the current suit, following the Times investigation Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week announced the creation of a task force to investigate the nail salon industry and allegations of unsafe working conditions. In light of the story nail industry insiders appear divided, with some calling for greater education to salon technicians to help prevent unsafe working conditions, and others urging greater regulations like New York’s new requirement that salons be bonded in the event owners don’t pay wages according to laws.

What This Means For Small Businesses

Every small business owner must balance the need for adequate labor with the growing costs of wages and benefits. Increasing pressure from employee advocates, the media, and the public at large may lead to more frequent suits by employees seeking back wages or other compensation across all industries, even for independent companies completely unrelated to the original outrage.

Additional Reading

The New York Times covered conditions among New York City nail salon workers, prompting the suit filed Thursday, which is covered by Reuters and the New York (NY) Daily News. Fortune examines suggestions from industry experts about ways to make nail salons a safer environment for employees, and also notes an example of a small New York City salon CEO who discusses how she provides benefits and wages above minimum standards.

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