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News Release

Workers in New York City nail salons face wage, other labor violations

US Labor Department raising awareness of labor laws among employers, employees

NEW YORK – Nail salon workers in one of the world’s largest cities work hard to serve their customers. At the same time, they are what the U.S. Department of Labor refers to as vulnerable workers – unaware of their rights, sometimes with language barriers, or reluctant to step forward to complain.

Working amid possible health hazards, nail salon workers also frequently go home underpaid or not paid at all for their labor. The Wage and Hour Division is actively determined to address this injustice as shown by its actions involving two New York City salons found to be in violation of federal overtime and recordkeeping rules.

The division’s investigators found that Ada Nails & Spa, at 81 W. Broadway in Manhattan, paid employees a flat rate per day plus commissions without regard to the number of hours they worked. Consequently, the salon failed to pay overtime when employees worked more than 40 hours in a workweek; failed to record all hours worked by employees; and failed to maintain other basic employment and payroll records as required by law. The second investigation found Hai Hua Beauty Salon Inc., at 151-91B Cross Island Parkway in Whitestone, also paid flat daily rates without regard to the number of hours actually worked; failed to pay overtime for hours worked beyond 40 in a week; and failed to keep accurate and complete payroll records.

Ada Nails & Spa paid $23,704 in overtime back wages to 12 employees while Hai Hua Beauty Salon Inc. paid $23,643 in overtime back wages to nine employees.

“The experience of these employers should serve as a lesson to all of New York City’s nail salon owners. This industry employs large numbers of vulnerable workers, many of whom may be unaware of their rights, may face language barriers, or may be reluctant to step forward to complain. We want nail salon employees to know their rights, and employers to know their responsibilities to prevent these violations from occurring,” said Debbie O. Lau, the Wage and Hour Division’s assistant district director in Manhattan. “We provide numerous tools to educate employers and employees in a variety of languages, including Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and Nepali. Our investigators are fluent in most of these languages and can obtain translations for others. Both workers and employers can speak with Wage and Hour representatives confidentially. All parties should also understand that we enforce the law regardless of a worker’s immigration status.”

Here are some of the basic protections required by the Fair Labor Standards Act:

Payment for Hours Worked:

  • Workers must be paid for all the time they spend performing work, whether or not the employer approves the work in advance. This includes time spent in training, traveling from site to site during the day, and any work performed “off the clock.”

Minimum Wage and Deductions:

  • Workers must be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for every hour that they work.
  • Even if paid by the day or at a piece rate, the payment received, when divided by the number of hours actually worked, must equal at least the federal minimum wage for every hour worked.
  • Some state laws require higher minimum wages and/or greater employee protections. Employers must comply with all laws that apply to their businesses.

Overtime Pay:

  • Generally, workers must be paid 1½ times their regular rates of pay for every hour worked beyond 40 in a workweek.


  • Employers must keep accurate records of all their employees’ daily and weekly hours worked, and wages paid.
  • Employees should keep their own records of their work hours and wages, and their employer’s name, address and phone number.

Independent Contractor or Employee?

Some salons incorrectly label workers “independent contractors” when they are actually employees. It is important for workers to know the difference between the two because employees are legally entitled to greater health and safety protections, wage protections and other benefits.

  • Workers who are not sure whether they are employees or independent contractors should contact the Wage and Hour Division, who can provide information to help determine employees’ workplace rights.

It is illegal for an employer to fire workers or retaliate against them in any way for contacting the Wage and Hour Division or for exercising their workplace rights.

If workers believe their rights have been violated or have any questions, they can call the Wage and Hour Division at 1-866-487-9243 or in New York City at 212-264-8185 (Manhattan) or 718-254-9410 (Brooklyn). The division can assist in nearly any language, and its services are free and confidential.

Wage and Hour Division
April 7, 2016
Release Number
Media Contact: Ted Fitzgerald