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New York Nail Workers Attorneys and Resources

Legal content fact checked by Charles E. Joseph

Defending Workers' Rights

Nail workers deserve full pay and a safe workplace. Laws also protect nail workers from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

In New York, workers in the nail salon industry are protected under federal, New York state, and New York City laws.

These laws guarantee minimum wage and overtime, impose safety requirements, protect New York nail workers from discrimination and retaliation, and grant other legal protections.

Contact a New York employment lawyer to protect your rights.

Know Your Rights

Nail workers must be paid at least the minimum wage for all of the hours they work and overtime if they work more than 40 hours per week.

In addition to laws about proper compensation protections, nail workers also have protections against unsafe conditions, discrimination, and retaliation.

These rights apply to all New York nail workers regardless of immigration status.

Immigration status does not change the legal rights of a worker in a nail salon. All workers have the right to file a claim for unpaid wages, overtime, or workplace discrimination.

It is illegal for employers to seize or hold onto your passport or any other identifying documents.

Minimum Wage Protections

Nail workers must be paid at least the minimum wage for every hour they work. Including any work done before or after your shift officially starts.

While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, the minimum wage in New York state is $11.80 for 2020. In New York City, the minimum wage is $15.00 an hour. These numbers are set to increase every year for New York state.

Trainees, learners, or apprentices must also be paid at least the minimum wage.

Earning less than minimum wage is a form of wage theft.

In addition, nail workers must be paid weekly, and not later than seven days after the end of the week when the wages were earned.

Tip Credit

Your employer is allowed to pay you less than the minimum wage if you regularly earn tips, but only if your wages plus your tips add up to at least the minimum wage for each hour worked. This is called a “tip credit.”

The salon is never allowed to take your tips or force you to share tips with them.

If you don’t earn enough in tips during a given shift to bring your hourly compensation up to the minimum wage, your employer must pay the difference. On the other hand, even if you make the minimum per hour in tips alone, your employer still must pay you the minimum cash wage.

For example, if your work at a nail salon with 10 or fewer employees, and you earn $10 per hour in tips alone, your employer still has to pay you $8 per hour (the minimum cash wage for small employers).

Your employer is not allowed to pay you solely with tips.

Notice to Tipped Employees

Before you begin working, your employer must provide written notice of the amount of tip credit that will be taken from your minimum hourly rate. The notice must also state that extra payment is required if your tips are not enough to bring your hourly rate up to the minimum wage.

This notice must be written in both English and whatever language you speak as your primary language.

Overtime Protections

In New York, nail workers can receive overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. Overtime pay is at least one and a half times your regular rate of pay.

Even if your employer pays you less than minimum wage by using a tip credit, your regular rate of pay will be calculated based on the full minimum wage.

Spread-of-Hours Pay

New York law requires that your employer pay you an additional one hour of pay at the standard minimum wage if you work more than ten hours in a single workday. This is known as spread-of-hours pay.

The ten-hour spread includes any breaks or meal periods that occur during the workday. Your employer may not use the tip credit to reduce the hourly rate for spread-of-hours pay. However, this extra hour of pay does not count when calculating hours worked to see whether you are entitled to overtime.

If you work a split shift – where your hours worked are not consecutive – you are also owed one additional hour of pay. For example, if you work from noon to three and then return to work from seven until midnight, you must receive pay for the eight hours of work plus an additional hour at minimum wage.

Meal Breaks and Sick Leave

All New York workers are entitled to an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes when they work for six or more hours.

If you work in New York City, you may be eligible for up to 40 hours of sick leave each year to care for yourself, your child, or other family members. If your employer has five or more employees, you have a right to paid sick leave. If your employer has fewer than five employees, you have a right to unpaid sick leave.

You may also be eligible for medical leave under New York state and federal law.

If you have worked for your current employer for at least 26 weeks, you may be eligible for up to 8 weeks of paid leave under New York state law for care for your medical condition, or to bond with a new child, care for a close relative with a serious health condition or address certain military family needs.

If you have worked for the same employer for at least one year, you may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year under federal law to care for yourself, or a family member or to bond with a new child. The leave may be taken all at once or from time to time.

All three laws make it illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for requesting or using sick leave.

Kickbacks and Deductions from Wages

It is against the law for your employer to request a fee or any part of your wages under the threat of not hiring or firing you.

Your employer is not allowed to make any deductions from your paycheck unless it is required by law, such as income taxes or Social Security taxes. Any other deductions must be for your benefit, cannot exceed 10% of your gross wages in a given pay period, and cannot be taken without your written permission.

Your employer is not allowed to take deductions from your wages for:

  • Spoilage or breakage
  • Training
  • Fines or penalties for lateness, misconduct, or quitting without notice

Independent Contractors

Frequently, salons call nail workers “independent contractors” or say they are working on commission when they actually are employees.

Employees are entitled to greater workplace protections and benefits including being paid no less than the minimum wage and overtime pay as well as protections against discrimination and sexual harassment.

Contact us if you are unsure whether you are an employee or a contractor. 

Bill of Rights for Nail Workers

Safety Requirements

New York’s Bill of Rights for Nail Workers requires nail salons to meet certain safety requirements.

The salon must provide the following safety equipment at no cost to you if you request it:

  • A properly fitting respirator to use when buffing or filing nails, or when using acrylic powder. 
  • Protective nitrile gloves to use when handling potentially hazardous chemicals or waste and during cleanup, or when performing any nail service that has a risk of breaking the customer’s skin.
  • Protective eye equipment for use when preparing, transferring, or pouring potentially hazardous chemicals. 

Posting Requirements

The salon must post the “Bill of Rights for Nail Workers” in a place where nail workers and customers can easily view it.

Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

New York nail workers have legal protections against discrimination and sexual harassment.

Nail workers cannot be discriminated against based on gender, race, religion, national origin, or any other protected category.

Sexual harassment violates the laws protecting nail workers and includes unwelcome sexual advances, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, and requests for sexual favors.

It is also illegal for an employer, supervisor, or coworker to harass you because you are a member of a protected group. Creating a hostile, intimidating, or threatening work environment is against the law.

New York law protects nail workers from sexual harassment and harassment regardless of the size of their employer. However, protections against discrimination in hiring and firing only apply if the employer has four or more employees.


It is against the law for your employer to retaliate against you if you stand up for your legal rights. This includes complaining to your employer about wrongful pay, filing a claim against your employer, or participating in an investigation as a witness.

Retaliation can include firing or suspending an employee, a reduction in hours or pay, threats of deportation, or forcing an employee to reverify their employment authorization.

It is illegal for employers to retaliate against undocumented workers by threatening to contact the police or ICE. Undocumented workers may qualify for immigration relief as a result of employer retaliation. 

Nail workers who have been the victims of retaliation may be able to recover their jobs or any lost wages and benefits by filing a retaliation complaint.

Filing a Complaint

New York nail workers have legal protections. If your employer has withheld wages or refused to pay overtime, you can file a claim with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division or the New York Department of Labor’s Division of Labor Standards. These departments can investigate and order back wages from your employer. They can also file a lawsuit on your behalf for back pay and damages. 

If you have faced discrimination or been sexually harassed, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the New York State Division of Human Rights, or the New York City Human Rights Commission.

If your rights have been violated, you can also file a lawsuit in court.  Reach out for a free consultation with a New York employment lawyer.

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Legal content fact checked by Charles E. Joseph

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