Cuomo Takes on Wage Theft

man pulling out one dollar bill from jacket front pocket
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is making waves in nail salons throughout the Empire State by creating a multi-task force to investigate allegations of wage theft and unhealthy working conditions at nail salons.

The War Against Unhealthy and Underpaid Working Conditions

Nail salons are notorious for the noxious chemicals they use and workers are exposed to them throughout the day. For many of the nail salon employees, English is a second language, making it an obstacle to get the wages they deserve and maintain a healthy working environment. Because of this, Governor Cuomo is instituting a six-language education program to make employees aware of their rights.

The New York Times recently ran an investigation into nail salons in New York where it found “wide exploitation of manicurists.” Cuomo stated that salons that do not comply with the new order by paying back wages or not being licensed will be shut down. Cuomo said, “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.” He added, “We will not stand idly by as workers are deprived of their hard-earned wages and robbed of their most basic rights.”

These positions are often held by recently naturalized citizens who don’t have a full understanding of the rights of workers in America. They’ve experienced subpar working conditions, at best, and don’t question their new working conditions since it appears to be a “step up”. And since they’re probably receiving a higher income than they’re accustomed to receiving, they don’t tend to question what is considered below average wage.

Salons now must post information about workers’ rights and fair wages, such as notifying them that it is illegal to work without receiving wages or receiving compensation for a job. Nail technicians often have to “rent” space from their employers, which is not legal. These signs will be in multiple languages including the most common for the industry — Korean, Chinese and Spanish.

Salons will now be required to be bonded so that employees can be paid. Many salon owners being investigated for wage theft hide their assets. This change will ensure payment to the employees even when funds cannot be found.

What Can I Do If My Employer Is Withholding My Wages?

Employers often take advantage of employees if they believe they won’t speak up. The newness of the country, the language barrier, and the lack of understanding of the laws we have in place often keep them from coming forward. Don’t let this happen to you. If you feel there have been wages withheld unfairly or your employer is not adhering to the labor laws posted at your place of work, seek legal counsel to decide on next steps.

Like Cuomo, the employment attorneys at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. are fighting hard for the rights of employees. Contact us today.

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