New York governor signs emergency nail salon worker law

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 16, 2015 2:00 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law on Thursday pay and health protections for the state's nail salon workers, comprised largely of Asian and Latino immigrants, his office announced.

The emergency legislation follows a New York Times expose this year about the nail salon industry that highlighted unsafe working conditions with harmful chemicals and unfair labor practices that included paying less than the legal minimum wage and withholding paychecks.

“New York offers a promise that our arms and hearts are open to those who come here to work and build a better future for themselves – and we will not tolerate worker exploitation, period," Cuomo said in a statement.

Most of the state's nail salon employees are immigrant women from Asia and Latin America. Groups supporting immigrants in the United States, like the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, have publicly praised the legislation.

The law gives the state increased authority to shut down nail salons and inflict harsher penalties on the businesses that fail to comply with health, pay and licensing regulations.

It requires that every salon have an insurance policy or bond that covers business liabilities, especially in the event that owners are found not to have paid workers.

Under the law unlicensed workers will be able to register with the state as trainees, allowing them to work while studying for licensing exams instead of being forced to take costly and condensed tutorial programs. It also will make licenses more accessible for immigrant nail salon workers by offering guidelines in more languages, including Nepali and Tibetan.

Salons also will face regulations including improved worker protective equipment.

Additional rules will be proposed in the coming months that would require increased ventilation in facilities. A review of potentially hazardous chemicals used in salons is underway.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney)