Workers Sue Local Salon Chain for Labor Violations

Workers Sue Local Salon Chain for Labor Violations

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Workers with the nail salon chain Natalie Salon filed a class action lawsuit in San Mateo Superior Court Tuesday, accusing their employers of not providing overtime pay and other labor violations.

San Francisco-based Asian Law Caucus and the law firm David Cowell and Bowe, LLP filed the lawsuit on behalf of four current and former employees of the chain, which operates five shops in Redwood City, San Mateo, Los Gatos, Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

Vicky Tran has worked as a manicurist for two decades, and, until recently, worked for Natalie Salon since 2006. Tran says she regularly worked nine to 10 and a half hour days, but was never paid overtime. She says she often didn’t get to eat meals because she was so busy.

“I decided to get involved [in the lawsuit] because I felt it was wrong to treat employees that way. I wanted to stand up for myself and co-workers to get properly paid,” said Tran, a plaintiff in the case, during a press conference on Tuesday.

The lawsuit also charges Natalie Salon with confiscation of a portion of workers’ tips, unlawful deductions from paychecks for minor infractions like dropping nail polish, and failure to provide required meal periods.

“Natalie Salon believes they can get away with it, because they think workers don’t know where to get help. I have learned the law and I will not accept this kind of treatment,” Tran said.

Asian Law Caucus staff attorney Winifred Kao said the plaintiffs are seeking owed wages for themselves and their co-workers. Kao said the class action suit includes at least 50 employees.

“[We are] not able to come up with a dollar figure, but we believe…with the hours of overtime due, [the amount] is significant,” said Kao.

Natalie Salon co-owner Bill Dong said he had not heard about the lawsuit, but denied that he and his wife and co-owner Natalie Phan had failed to properly pay workers. In the past, Dong says, he and his wife paid workers a daily flat rate of at least $85 that satisfied both minimum wage and overtime requirements.

“The majority of Vietnamese-owned nail salons pay a day rate… there’s extra to cover overtime,” Dong said in Vietnamese, during a phone interview. “Workers claiming that [we don’t pay overtime] are not right.”

Elizabeth Lawrence, a partner in the law firm Davis Cowell & Bowe, LLP, said the practice of paying a flat day rate is unlawful.

“He still has to pay overtime. If [the work day is] more than eight hours, workers get time and a half… He’s not providing that overtime rate,” Lawrence said.

In June, Dong says, he and his wife consulted an attorney, who advised the couple to pay their nail technicians an hourly wage.

“I started to pay an hourly wage… and I started to use timecards to keep track [of worker hours],” said Dong, adding that he now pays workers an hourly wage ranging from $9-$17, including overtime.

“When he got wind of the [complaints], he recognized that he wasn’t following the law, and he had to take steps to correct that, and that’s a good thing,” said Kao of the Asian Law Caucus. She says that the lawsuit opens up a “discovery” process where the business owners will be required to hand over time records that could help reveal ongoing problems.

In the past, Kao says, state labor laws prohibited these types of “day rate” agreements between an employer and employee that included overtime pay. The law is a bit murkier now, she says, with a recent “state appellate” decision that offers the opposite view, under very limited circumstances.

“But, even under the Arichega standard, Natalie Salon's daily rate was clearly unlawful. The flat daily rates paid to the workers do not provide the required time and a half, the employee's basic rate for the overtime hours they regularly worked,” Kao said in an email.

After 20 years, manicurist Tran has left the nail business. She’s now employed as an electrical technician in Santa Clara County. Like many of her peers, she says she entered the nail business because it doesn’t take a lot of training, money or education to get started, and workers can succeed with limited English-language skills. In the last two decades, Vietnamese immigrant women entered the profession in droves.

There are 96,000 licensed nail technicians in California, and  60-80 percent of the workers are Vietnamese, according to information from the Asian Law Caucus. Kao says the group learned about the Natalie Salon case when a manicurist visited its workers’ rights clinic for more information about labor laws.

“Employees feel they can get away with more because people need the jobs,” Kao said. “Families need the wages to meet family needs. Wage theft is particularly hard during the bad economy.”
 

Comments

 
Anonymous

Posted Sep 14 2011

That is the Chinese system . No pain no gain . Your pain our gain. That's how China became
an unbeliveable economic power using the whole chinese population working hard for the glory of a few.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 14 2011

all the store have a problem like that

Anonymous

Posted Sep 14 2011

God bless america.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 14 2011

Put the Owner in jail so other will learn and obey the laws.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 15 2011

Yeah let make it happend put the owner in jail for goods

Anonymous

Posted Sep 15 2011

jj

Anonymous

Posted Sep 15 2011

Once more thing, even salon owners pay by daily rate, they pay by 1099 , not by W2. I hope the government investigate all nail salons.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 16 2011

Once more thing, they use 1099 to pay for manicurist, not w2.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 16 2011

I have been a customer since 2005 and have been to all but the Los Gatos location. I have been going to the different salons for a manicure and pedicure every week during at varying days and hours of the week. I spend a good three hours in the salon each time so I have seen the salons during peak hours/days and during slow hours/days for over six years. While it is true that the salons get busy, mostly on Fridays after 4 pm all day on Satudays, manicurists have a lot of down time all the other hours/days. I have observed the staff sitting around chatting/gossiping or eating. As a business owner, I often wondered if they got paid by the number of customers they serviced (commission basis). There were days when I would be the only customer in the salon for several hours while the manicurists would be doing nothing. When I finally had the nerve to ask the owner if the employees were paid by commission and found out that they were on the payroll, I was surprised that the manicurists were getting paid for doing nothing!

I have gone to the two salons that Ms. Tran worked at and I know that she only worked three days a week because she went to school. It was only last year that she started working five-eight hour days. The claim that they were not given time for meals is false as I often saw them eating home-cooked meals they would share with one another. I have even made comments to the owner that the staff should not be eating meals where customers would see them (or smell the food!)

I sincerely hope that the judgment will be fair. The owners are honest and sincere people and have been nothing but kind to their employees. They have created businesses and jobs for many people and have enhanced the community where their locations are.

Anonymous

Posted Jan 13 2012

not even talking about how the owner went to diff. salons which owns by Caucasian to copy the design of the website, brochute and how they run their business so that this owner can go home and open one like them. I meant they should be charged by stealing the copy right.

Anonymous

Posted Jan 17 2012

if they want to be rich overnight, then work harder, just don't suck people blood and step on them like that. They even make their employees to clean toilet, mop the floor...duh, they're not your servants, they make money for you and see how much you pay them but make they work like a maid...how rediculous..

Anonymous

Posted Jan 17 2012

...if they want to be rich overnight, then work harder, just don't suck people blood and step on them like that. They even make their employees to clean toilet, mop the floor...duh, they're not your servants, they make money for you and see how much you pay them but make they work like a maid...how rediculous..

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