Hair salons have moved rapidly toward a model where stylists are treated as independent contractors, rather than full-time employees with all the benefits that can come from that status. And it’s often done in circumstances where workers should instead be paid like regular employees. “It has become standard practice in many hair salons … to treat workers as independent contractors, to require them to even rent a chair or space in the salon, not to pay them an hourly wage and instead to have them subsist on tips or payments,” said Sarah Leberstein, a senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project (NELP).
It makes sense for employers to keep stylists on 1099s instead of W2s. Owners aren’t on the hook for paying their share of contractors’ Social Security, Medicare, or unemployment insurance, nor the employer’s share of income tax. The workers also aren’t covered by employment and labor laws like workers compensation or discrimination protections. “In some ways it’s a great deal for the employer or the business to call all of its workers independent contractors,” Leberstein said.
According to reports from the Professional Beauty Association, an industry group that represents both stylists and salon owners, salons and spas that don’t have any direct employees — meaning someone who owns her own salon and works alone, someone who works as a contractor in entertainment and fashion, or, most common, a salon that doesn’t employ people directly but instead brings in independent contractors — have grown 83 percent over the last decade. Salons and spas that have direct employees, on the other hand, have only grown 16 percent.
Today, more than 90 percent of all salons have no direct employees, meaning they either have just one person cutting hair or rely completely on independent contractors. Meanwhile, more than a third of all hairdressers, stylists, and cosmetologists are self-employed, compared to just 7 percent of the overall workforce.
This trend wouldn’t be concerning if these workers were simply choosing to be independent contractors and were afforded all the freedoms they are supposed to get. If a worker is simply renting a booth from a salon owner and setting her own hours, prices, and products, then she qualifies as one.
“Except that’s not how it works,” asserts Tina Alberino, a consultant in the salon industry who works with stylists who think their rights have been violated.
Read the full story at Why Your Beauty Salon Likely Doesn’t Have Any Employees