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Bill To Ensure Labor Law Education for Nail Salon Industry Introduced by Assemblymember Alex Lee

For immediate release:

Today, Assemblymember Alex Lee introduced AB 2444 to ensure that nail salon workers and owners receive the necessary education about labor laws, so that workers are treated fairly in their workplace. 

According to a 2024 policy brief by UCLA and the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, California is home to over 127,480 licensed manicurists and at least 6,147 nail salons. Santa Clara County alone has more than 550 nail salons. In California and more broadly, the U.S., the nail salon workforce is mostly women and foreign-born. Workers nationwide are largely Vietnamese, and almost half of those born abroad have low English proficiency, according to a 2018 study by UCLA and the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative. 

But labor violations such as misclassification of employment status are key concerns in the industry, and independent contractors are not afforded protections like minimum wage, overtime pay and workers’ compensation as employees are. Ensuring that both employers and workers are knowledgeable of labor laws and worker protections is essential to the fair treatment of nail salon workers. 

“I represent the most Asian American district in California, and Vietnamese community members are an integral part of Assembly District 24,” said Assemblymember Lee. “Vietnamese women make up the majority of the nail salon industry’s workforce. My goal is to ensure nail salon workers and owners better understand labor laws so there’s no room for confusion about their employment. AB 2444 will set a foundation for workers to understand their rights, and for employers to create a fair workplace.” 

The bill will require the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology to notify manicurists and establishments including nail salons about a change in law relating to the employment classification through language-appropriate and culturally-appropriate methods. 

That change aims to combat the misclassification of workers by presuming a worker is an employee, unless a hiring entity satisfies a three-factor test. With the passage of the bill AB 5 in 2019, nail salon workers’ status will be controlled by the three-factor test, known as the ABC test, starting next year. 

Under the test, a worker is considered an employee and not an independent contractor unless the hiring entity satisfies all three of the following conditions:

  • The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact;
  • The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  • The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

Assemblymember Lee’s bill will also require licensees, applicants for examination and licensure, as well as board-licensed establishments’ owners, to view a video on basic labor laws in order to receive a license or license renewal. The Board will also be required to develop language-appropriate and culturally-appropriate education videos on basic labor laws.

“Nail salon workers, who are predominantly from the Vietnamese community, face widespread labor violations, such as misclassification or being paid below minimum wage,” said Lisa Fu, Executive Director of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative. “Providing in-language and culturally responsive education and outreach for both nail salon workers and owners on fundamental labor laws is an essential first step to empower the workforce about their rights and to educate employers to implement fair labor practices. This is why Assemblymember Lee’s legislation is so important. It will advance our efforts to ensure that all of our hardworking community members are treated with dignity and respect.” 

A 2016-2017 survey of 93 Vietnamese nail salon workers in California shows that 89% of workers were not paid overtime for more than 8 hours of work. Further, 61% of workers were paid less than minimum wage. Other wage violations include getting paid late, and getting asked to work during breaks. 

Most nail salon workers are low wage earners. In 2021, the median hourly wage for nail salon workers was $10.94, below the minimum wage at the time and less than half the median wage of all other workers in California, according to the policy brief by UCLA and the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative. 

“All Californian workers should understand their rights and the workplace protections they’re entitled to, regardless of the language that they speak,” said Nikki Dominguez, Policy Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California. “This bill will provide desperately needed information on basic labor rights and industry standards for many hard working Californians, especially those in the Vietnamese, Korean and Spanish speaking communities. We are proud to work with Asm. Lee in speaking-up for these communities and strongly urge the Legislature to support the passage of this bill.”