Archives for February 2016

Nail salon sweeps in New York reveal abuses and regulatory challenges

Labor investigators have swept through nail salons across the state since May, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered them to step up their scrutiny of the industry in response to a series of articles in The New York Times that revealed abysmal pay and working conditions among nail salon workers.

From a regulatory perspective, the results of the inspection sweep seem to tell a straightforward story of widespread abuses. Although the state’s plans to crack down on the industry were highly publicized, all but a dozen of the 230 salons whose investigations were closed by late last year were cited for violating at least one labor law.

The investigations found that many salon workers worked long days and were paid what amounted to less than minimum wage. CreditNicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

The Labor Department cited more than 40 percent of the salons, including American Beauty, for underpaying employees, directing them to pay $1.1 million in back wages and several hundred thousand dollars in damages to workers, according to a review by The Times of closed investigations. Some of the violations were egregious: One worker at a Manhattan salon was paid $30 a day for 10-hour shifts; another manicurist in Queens was paid only $200 for a 50-hour workweek; manicurists at seven salons were forced to work for no pay or had to pay salon owners a fee, ostensibly to learn the trade; several owners admitted to submitting fake payroll records in an effort to fool investigators.

But the details of the state inspections are perhaps most revealing about just how challenging it is to regulate a largely immigrant-run industry in which almost everything is done off the books and employers are often unfamiliar with the intricacies of state labor laws.

About 85 percent of the salons failed to maintain adequate payroll records, a violation of state law, making it by far the most common citation, according to The Times’s review. Without records, investigators had to accept whatever employees told them they were paid, usually in front of their bosses. Many workers fear retaliation if they are honest about illegal wages, manicurists and labor officials said. Investigators later found that one owner, in fact, fired a worker who spoke to an investigator.

“We have a vulnerable worker population slowly coming to understand its rights, but some are still afraid and unsure of who to trust,” said Frank Sobrino, a spokesman for the Cuomo administration. “As a result, they do not come forward to report abuse.”

Labor investigators documented many of the abuses that were highlighted in The Times’s articles. But workers’ fears in speaking with inspectors, along with the fact that the state sweep came at a time of such intense scrutiny on the industry, complicate direct comparisons of the scope of the problems found by the state and The Times. Among the more than 100 manicurists interviewed by The Times, for example, only about a quarter said they were paid an amount that was the equivalent of minimum wage.

The inspection records reveal another reality: Many owners, even some of those making efforts to pay decent wages, simply failed to grasp the technical details of state labor laws. Many salon owners, for example, seemed unaware that they must pay one full hour of bonus wages when an employee’s shift spans more than 10 hours.

Nail workers routinely work days that stretch longer than eight hours and are paid in flat daily or weekly wages, a combination that does not square with state labor laws on overtime pay and essentially guarantee a violation, even when employees are paid a rate that works out to more than the state minimum wage.

In two dozen cases, for instance, owners paid employees an equivalent of at least the state minimum wage and overtime for the hours they worked, but because they did not correctly account for the overtime hours, they were still cited for underpayment.

Excluding those cases, just over a quarter of the salons — 67 in total — paid wages documented by investigators that worked out to less than the state minimum wage, which was $8.75 an hour when the inquiries occurred last year. Of those, 42 missed the mark by at least $50 a week.

A group of salon owners and State Assemblyman Ron Kim, who represents the mostly Asian enclave of Flushing, Queens, are planning a rally in Albany on Monday to protest the enforcement sweep, which they say has unfairly singled out an industry dominated by Asian immigrants.

In interviews, some owners of salons that had been cited insisted that they had done nothing wrong and that a few bad operators had tarnished the entire industry. Several said their employees would rather be paid in cash, under the table, because they were not authorized to work in this country.

Golden Nails, in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan, was found to have underpaid employees by almost $100,000 over three years. The salon recently closed.CreditKirsten Luce for The New York Times

Min Suk Yi, the owner of the American Beauty salon that was inspected last summer by Ms. Maloney, admitted to The Times that she did not keep proper payroll records, but she denied telling the two women to flee and accused Ms. Maloney of having a preconceived view that she was lying.

“It’s tough for owners, as well as workers,” Ms. Yi said. “Most owners like me work seven days a week for decades. I never even dreamed of taking a vacation.”

Subminimum Wage

Golden Nails, a tiny salon near Columbia University in Manhattan, was the subject of the largest total underpayment assessment by investigators: almost $100,000 that six employees should have received over three years.

The owners, who had closed the salon weeks before inspectors arrived last May, could not provide payroll records. So the investigator relied on the wages and hours cited by former employees.

One employee said she had been paid $30 a day for 10-hour shifts in 2012 — the lowest amount cited in any of the state inspections. She was given a raise, to $40, but that was still well below a legal wage. Another employee said she had worked six days a week, a total of 61 hours, for $300 in 2013. Under the state’s minimum wage laws, including an allowed reduction for tips she earned, the worker should have gotten about $450 a week.

Maurice Paredes, an owner, declined to discuss the inspection and blamed The Times for damaging the industry. “You generalize every nail salon as a place where people are taken advantage of, which is not true,” Mr. Paredes said.

Last year, a worker at another salon in Jackson Heights, Queens, was paid a rate of $420 for a 63.5-hour workweek, when she should have received at least $700. At a salon in Floral Park, N.Y., a worker earned only $200 for 50 hours a week, when she should have earned twice that much.

More than 10 percent of the salons illegally charged manicurists for supplies like gloves and nail clippers. One salon docked $50 from each worker’s wages every three months for items like gloves and nail polish.

Investigators also found that employees at some salons had to pay the owners to work during supposed training periods, an illegal practice that was highlighted in The Times’s initial investigation.

An employee at the Lucky Nail Spa on N, in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn, for instance, had to pay her boss $100 a day for her first two weeks on the job while she put in 10.5-hour shifts during an “apprenticeship,” according to investigators. She also had to pay $25 for supplies.

Michael Chen, an investigator with the State Worker’s Compensation Board, photographing licenses at Unique Nail & Spa in Astoria, Queens. CreditNicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

The owner, Linda Yang, an immigrant from China, said that before the inspection she thought it was fair to charge the worker. She vowed to never do so again and said she wished she had received a warning before being fined $4,000. She works mostly alone, she said, in her small salon.

“I want to follow American law and rules to be good citizen, but something we don’t know,” Ms. Yang said. “They have to let people know first.”

In addition to collecting back wages, the state can assess fines. Investigators levied the largest fine on New Broadway Nails, a salon in Greenwich Village.

The task force first visited the salon on Aug. 16. In the days that followed, the owner called three employees and told them to take time off, instructing one to stay away “until I make paperwork for you” and another to take a vacation because “I have to fix something,” according to inspection records.

When an investigator showed up on Aug. 25, the owner told one employee to leave, removed the employee’s work apron and pushed her out the door. The employee returned 30 minutes later and talked to the investigator. The owner then asked her to sign sheets that inaccurately listed her shifts. She refused. Days later, the owner fired her, the state’s investigation found.

The state fined New Broadway $10,000 for retaliating against its workers and $5,000 for other violations. The salon also had to pay its workers almost $84,000 in back wages and $66,000 in damages.

The owner of New Broadway denies the allegations and is challenging the findings, said Gopaljee Jaiswal, a lawyer representing the salon. Mr. Jaiswal accused employees of “concocting their story” and said he believed the state was “misusing the law” and “bullying the Chinese.”

When investigators visited Happy Nails in Bushwick, Brooklyn, last summer, they tried to speak with Juana Idrovo, a woman the investigators observed cleaning the salon. But the owner initially blocked them, Ms. Idrovo recalled in an interview with The Times.

“No, no, no, she is no one here,” the owner told investigators, according to Ms. Idrovo. “She doesn’t work here. She just comes to clean from time to time.”

In addition to cleaning, Ms. Idrovo said, she had performed manicures and pedicures at the salon for almost seven years.

Ms. Idrovo, 35, later called an investigator who had left a business card. She said she had started at $50 a day, sometimes working more than 10 hours at a stretch, and was eventually bumped up to $60 a day.

Lucky Nail Spa on N, in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn. The owner was fined after investigators found she was charging an employee to work there her first two weeks.CreditKirsten Luce for The New York Times

Happy Nails was ordered to pay her some $6,700 in back wages and $1,677 in damages. The salon was also fined $1,500.

The owner of the salon, which has since closed, could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Idrovo said she lied on the day of the inspection out of fear.

“I was nervous because the owner kept coming over warning me not to say anything,” she said.

Confusing Conversions

The Times’s review included investigations that were completed by mid-December. Salons can appeal the Labor Department’s findings. In all, the agency inspected 395 salons, mostly in New York City, during the sweep last year.

The state did find salons that were following labor laws. A worker at Atlas Park Floris Spa and Nails, in Glendale, Queens — one of the 12 salons that received no citations for violations in the recent inspection sweep — said in an interview that she had earned $9 an hour plus tips and liked her job.

In two dozen cases, salons paid workers wages that amounted to more than the state minimum wage but ran afoul of state laws because they paid daily or weekly rates.

Salon owners are required to pay workers one and a half times their regular hourly wage for any overtime hours. If an owner pays a daily or weekly rate, the state converts that to an hourly rate to evaluate whether the wage is sufficient.

But the method the state uses to convert the rate guarantees an underpayment violation on any overtime hours worked.

Consider what happened to Lyn’s Nail One Salon, in Astoria, Queens, where an employee earned $500 for a 50-hour workweek. That is the equivalent of $9.09 an hour, with $13.54 an hour for overtime, a legal wage.

But following the state’s conversion method, an investigator calculated her regular hourly rate as $10 an hour — dividing $500 by 50 hours — and then issued a violation because the owner did not pay $15 an hour for 10 of those hours.

Officials with the Labor Department said the method was written into state law and was intended to discourage employers from paying flat rates for long days, which some employers have historically used to short workers on overtime pay. Employers receive advance written notice of the risks of not paying by the hour, officials said.

“We are not cracking down on innocent bookkeeping errors,” said Mr. Sobrino, the state spokesman. “We are fighting to recover unpaid wages and improve working conditions for exploited nail salon workers.”

NFPC This Week, #650 – 2/21-2/27/2016

Of Note This Week –

Early Bird registration discount for the 2016 NFPC annual Convocation ends March 1.  Save $50.by registering on or by March 1. To register online, click here.

Reserve your hotel room at the Indianapolis Marriott East by March 17 to get the  NFPC special block room rate of  $126 [single/double]. To reserve your hotel room, click here.

Inc_TaxGuide-2016NFPC’s Income Tax Guide for Clergy – Tax Year 2015 is now available. The 2015 Guide has specific and comprehensive tax information relevant to clergy. This publication is available as a PDF download. The PDF will arrive as a separate e-mail. To place a PDF order, please click on “Add to Cart”. If you are interested in a paper copy(ies), please call NFPC at 1 (312) 442-9700 during business hours [8:30 am-4:30 pm CST). Click here to order PDF

Father Stephen Thorne: Black Catholic history has lessons for the wider Church

Fr. Stephen Thorne. Photo courtesy of the National Black Catholic Congress

Fr. Stephen Thorne. Photo courtesy of the National Black Catholic Congress

As we come to the end of Black History Month we are reminded of the contributions of many prominent and ordinary African-American Catholics and organizations to the Church in the US.

Fr. Stephen Thorne, administrator of the Daniel Rudd Fund for the National Black Catholic Congress in an article titled “The Painful Resilient History of America’s Black Catholics,” notes, “African-Americans have been Catholics since the earliest days of the colonies. We’ve been a part of the Church since the beginning. We’re not newcomers to the Catholic Church. ”

He goes on to say, “A lot of things came about, like in our [broader] American culture, because African-Americans were not welcome. In many places, Jim Crow laws and discriminatory practices applied to some parts of the Church, particularly in the South.

“Parishes were segregated with separate Mass times or even separate physical parishes for white and black parishioners. Even in parishes where black attendees were welcome, they would sometimes have to sit at the back of the church and receive Communion after the rest of the congregation.

Fr. Thorne cites Servant of God, Fr. Augustus Tolton, who was born a slave. He became the first publicly known black Catholic priest when he was ordained in 1886.

Other examples of African-American Catholics with open causes for sainthood include Venerable Pierre Toussaint, Mother Henriette Delille and Mother Mary Lange.

Fr. Thorne is a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

For more on the National Black Catholic Congress website, go to: www.nbccongress.org.

For the National Catholic Register (Feb. 24, 2016) posting, click here.

Sioux City diocese to downsize beginning 2017

The Catholic Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa announced a plan on Feb. 25 to reduce the number of parishes from 108 to 67 beginning in the summer of 2017.

The announcement was posted on the Sioux City Journal (Feb. 25, 2016) web site. Citing the growing shortage of priests and decrease in Mass attendance the action would mostly affect small towns and rural areas. The report notes that while no buildings would close they would change to oratory status and could continue to host weddings and funerals. The report further states that no schools will be affected.

The diocese has ordained nine priests in the last 10 years. The number of priests available for pastoral ministry is expected to drop from 58 to 35 in the next seven to eight years.

For the entire report, click here.

2016 Reverend Jerome A. Fitzmyer, SJ Institute on Sacred Scripture

FitzmyerThe 2016 Reverend Jerome A. Fitzmyer, SJ Institute on Sacred Scripture will take place from June 7-9 at Georgetown University. The theme for this year’s Institute is Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity. Presenters include Susannah Heschel, Ph.D., Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College; Fr. Donald Senior, CP, Ph.D., President Emeritus and Professor of New Testament at Catholic Theological Union; and Alan C. Mitchell, Ph.D., Associate Professor of New Testament and Director of the Fitzmyer Institute. For more information regarding registration and cost, contact Dr. Alan C. Mitchell: (202) 687-5756, E-mail: [email protected]. For a brochure [PDF], click here.

IPS at Loyola U. Chicago offers online certificate in Church Management

LUC_IPSLoyola University Chicago’s Institute of Pastoral Studies now offers an online certificate in Church Management.

Participants will learn skills in business administration, accounting, marketing, organizational development, human resources and more.

To receive more information, visit: LUC.edu/churchmanagement and choose  “IPS Certificate Programs” in the Program of Interest menu list.

Collegeville Ministry Series

Assembly-croppedIn The Ministry of the Assembly, Joyce Ann Zimmerman, CPPS explains that the liturgical assembly is likely the most important ministry “because it makes visible the church, the body of Christ, by its very gathering together as one body.” Being a liturgical assembly is a privilege of our baptismal identity and the first way we live it out.  The 71-page volume and its five chapters address the being of the liturgical assembly, what the assembly does during liturgy, why being a liturgical assembly is so important, the configuration of the liturgical assembly in its own place, and a spirituality of the liturgical assembly. $7.95 (also available in e-book).  To order, click here.

Cantors-croppedIn The Ministry of Cantors [Revised Edition], Kathleen Harmon, SNDdeN relies less on the  “how-tos” of vocal technique, warm-up exercises, diction principles, etc. and instead focuses on what the cantor is doing beneath vocal technique: surrendering self to the dying and rising of the paschal mystery. The aim of the book is to help cantors delve more deeply into who they are and who they are becoming through their ministry: the Body of Christ pouring self out in voice, breath, and prayer for the life of the world. $7.95 (also available in e-book). To order, click here.

Communion-croppedIn The Ministry of Communion [3rd Edition], Michael Kwatera, OSB offers practical advice and vital theology for Eucharistic ministers. Updated with the latest liturgical laws and norms, and with an expanded section on leading Communion services, this book is an excellent guide for both those who serve God’s people and those who help them prepare for the ministry. $5.95 (also available in e-book). To order, click here.

The Ministry of Cantors

Cantors-croppedIn The Ministry of Cantors [Revised Edition], Kathleen Harmon, SNDdeN relies less on the  “how-tos” of vocal technique, warm-up exercises, diction principles, etc. and instead focuses on what the cantor is doing beneath vocal technique: surrendering self to the dying and rising of the paschal mystery. The aim of the book is to help cantors delve more deeply into who they are and who they are becoming through their ministry: the Body of Christ pouring self out in voice, breath, and prayer for the life of the world. $7.95 (also available in e-book). To order, click here.

The Ministry of Communion

Communion-croppedIn The Ministry of Communion [3rd Edition], Michael Kwatera, OSB offers practical advice and vital theology for Eucharistic ministers. Updated with the latest liturgical laws and norms, and with an expanded section on leading Communion services, this book is an excellent guide for both those who serve God’s people and those who help them prepare for the ministry. $5.95 (also available in e-book). To order, click here.

 

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