New Jersey bill would toughen state’s regulation of nail salons

 New Jersey lawmakers are proposing a bill to strengthen regulations on Garden State nail salons. (Bebeto Matthews/AP Photo)

New Jersey lawmakers are proposing a bill to strengthen regulations on Garden State nail salons. (Bebeto Matthews/AP Photo)

Earlier this year, the New York Times laid bare the exploitative conditions at nail salons in the city.

Now, two New Jersey lawmakers who took note of the exposé are pushing for stricter regulations on nail salons in the Garden State.

“We want to make sure that people are protected. We don’t want them to be exploited,” said Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington, who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Tom Kean, R-Union.

“It’s a safety issue. In many respects it’s almost a human rights issue,” she said.

The bill would require the Board of Cosmetology to conduct thorough annual inspections of 5 percent of New Jersey’s nail salons to ensure state health and safety standards are met.

It would further require workers to wear protective safety equipment including gloves and face masks to safeguard against potentially harmful fumes, and it would force owners to post information about state fair wage laws.

The Times story outlined the often cruel conditions under which nail salon employees — many of whom are immigrant women — have to work.

“We cannot stand by in silence as countless individuals are subjected to brutal health risks and sweat shop conditions — often in plain view of the customer,” said Kean in a written statement.

Lawmakers in New York recently reached a deal on similar reforms.

For workers in New Jersey and New York City (where nail salons outnumber Starbucks), the job is even worse, said Charlene Obernauer, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

“In New York City, we’ve got manicures that are at rates that are lower than in any other parts of the country. And I’m sure that some of that also carries over into New Jersey,” she said.

“We’ve got really low manicure prices, and we have some of the highest rent rates in all of the country. So there’s an imbalance going on.”

The New Jersey bill is awaiting a state Senate committee assignment.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.