Nearly two dozen nail salons were shut down in Connecticut—at least temporarily—after a random sweep by the Department of Labor earlier this month. Inspired by New York state's response to a New York Times investigation into nail salons, and after complaints, officials randomly investigated 25 salons from Hartford to Stamford on Aug. 3 and found just two were operating according to wage and hour laws, WTNH and the Hartford Courant report. The remaining 23 were paying workers in cash, below minimum wage, or without overtime, and avoiding Social Security and unemployment taxes. Many of the workers were Asian immigrants; at one salon, they were paid just $4 an hour before tips, says Gary Pechie of the Labor Department.
More than 50 women will see $62,000 in back wages—a figure that could rise. NBC Connecticut reports $47,000 was recovered during the raids. Some 119 workers at the salons were paid at least minimum wage, but under the table, Pechie says, adding salon owners owe $130,000 in civil penalties. A Korean American serving as a liaison between Pechie and owners says he's embarrassed and surprised by the findings, noting salon owners are "really deeply sorry for not following rules and regulations." Pechie adds no managers attempted to impede the raids, though some customers did. Inspectors let workers finish up with clients before closing a business. "Nobody walked out with just three fingernails," Pechie says.