They work long hours. Most nail workers are women from Vietnam, China, Korea, Nepal and South America.
In 2009, six Chinese workers from Long Island filed a lawsuit claiming they were paid less than the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. They also said they were not paid overtime after working more than 40 hours.
Last month, a federal court awarded them nearly $250,000.
Organizers of a union for nail workers said the judgment helps them gain bargaining rights and benefits for workers abused in nail salons.
Four of the workers were fired after they filed the lawsuit. The National Labor Relations Board returned three of the workers to their jobs.
Advocates for the workers said fear of losing their jobs silenced many workers. They hoped the decision would encourage people to seek their rights.
One advocate said, “Organizing the nail salon industry has been very difficult. Victories show there is a way that if you come forward, you can fight and win.”