Azena Nailed, Too

Azena Nail Spa is the 2nd Westport salon to be slapped with a Stop-Work order by the state Department of Labor.

Like Posh at the other end of town, Azena — next to Barnes & Noble — was charged with “misrepresenting employees as private contractors.”

However, unlike Posh — near Whole Foods — Azena actually followed the order, and shut its doors.

A handwritten sign above the official notice reads:

Dear Customer,

For some reason we close today! Sorry for all the inconvenience!! And we will open tomorrow!

Azena Management

(Photo/Dr. Edward Paul)

(Photo/Dr. Edward Paul)

3 responses to “Azena Nailed, Too

  1. Bobbie Herman

    I’m glad the Labor Department is investigating these abuses. The NYTimes articles apparently have been effective.

  2. Misconception #1 (which I’ve written about before) is that Westport nail salon workers are slave labor. Wrong. From the NY Times article: “Korean manicurists, particularly if they are youthful and attractive, typically have their pick of the most desirable jobs in the industry — shiny shops on Madison Avenue and in other affluent parts of the city.” As I wrote before, Westport gets the best of the best Koreans. The bottom rung towns get fresh-off-the-boat non Koreans who do get paid quite poorly by American standards, but are just thankful to be here and be employed at all (take that as you may).

    Misconception #2 is that the Department of Labor is proactive. Wrong. They are reactive. There are all sorts of industries that have workers under their roof they knowingly incorrectly classify as independent contractors (to avoid worker’s comp, unemployment, FICA matching, health insurance, etc.). The DoL will only investigate if they get a formal complaint (or, in rare instances, if ordered to by law enforcement or a city official). There is likely no Westport crackdown going on.

    Misconception #3 is that salon workers have 12 hour days. Not exactly. While they often are in-town for that long, their shift is about eight hours. Like restaurants, salons have surge times and can’t afford to be short-staffed and lose customers. The problem is, as immigrants, they’d rather not stir the pot by banding together to have their employees treated like restaurant workers.

    By way of actual example, a decade ago my wife and I served as intermediaries with one such Westport salon (still around and doing well thankfully) that got investigated by the DoL. They had been targeted by two non-Korean workers. I say “targeted” because lawyers for this ethnic group would cold-call salon employees guaranteeing them big payouts if they hired them to file a Department of Labor complaint.

    Looking at my old notes, these (low-level) employees were paid a base wage of $25 a day, and had documented tips of between $100-140 a day for about an eight hour work day ($15-20/hr). But, according to the DoL, these workers were being shortchanged about $4/hr ($7.10, the minimum wage then, less $25/8hrs). Worse, because the salon conveniently drove the workers to/from work (instead of making them take the train), the DoL considered them to have a 12 hour work day (even though they had about four free hours to nap, gossip, watch tv, shop, etc.) thus qualifying them for four hours of time-and-a-half overtime each day. The total fine was well over $200K, though we did manage to negotiate it down to $80K. This was in addition to the $40K of back wages they had to pay the two complainants.

    It for sure is curious to see two salons being investigated at the same time. Nevertheless, both obviously rolled the dice on classifying their workers incorrectly, and at least one at each place filed a complaint. Posh, which does exceedingly well, will fight, negotiate, pay a very steep fine, change their accounting, and move on. Not sure about Azalea. The other firms that wrongly classify their employees as independent contracts will likely breathe a sigh of relief it wasn’t them, cross their fingers, and continue business as usual.

  3. Azena Nail Spa, a full-service nail salon in Westport for 10 years, with our owner s 20 years experience in the nail salon business, Azena Nail Spa maintains a strong dedication on quality service, excellent sanitation, and customer service. Please come and give us a try.