Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Nail salon inspections center of dirty spat

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BATON ROUGE - Some Vietnamese and Asian American salon owners believe they are being unfairly targeted because of their race.

A lawsuit was filed over the situation, but the State Board of Cosmetology countered the group is trying to avoid salon inspections, meant to protect customers.

Around the state, 6,000 salons are inspected twice a year by a handful of regulators. The State Board of Cosmetology says it leaves customers vulnerable to health issues.

"So, it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time," said the Director of the State's Board of Cosmetology Steve Young.

Inspectors check for stray hairs, make sure items are stocked and technicians are properly licensed.

Nail technician Mindy Hoang is ready for each state inspection.

"We have to keep the shop clean every morning and every afternoon," said Hoang.

She came to the United States 10 years ago. She had 600 hours of training and experience before she opened her high-end salon with a focus on health standards. At Hoang's salon, you'll find licensed technicians with photo IDs.

Young believes luck helps regulators find offenders and luck keeps other nail salons open that should not be. If a problem is found, violators pay a fine and can go on probation for a year.

"It's gotten much worse in five years," said Young. "Really we didn't have a problem 10 years ago with unlicensed personnel in the state, so, yes, it has gotten worse."

The WBRZ Investigative Unit checked a year's worth of those charged with violations. In nearly every case, the names of those fined had an Asian last name. In the past year, 200 technicians and businesses have been fined in the state. It is why the group of Vietnamese and Asian American salon owners filed their lawsuit over a year ago. The suit claims the State Board of Cosmetology targeted Asian and Vietnamese immigrants because of their race and alleges the discriminatory practices are increasing.

Willie Payne Cosmetology School had its license revoked because the business submitted dozens of fraudulent high school graduation diplomas to the state - a diploma is one of the first requirements to being certified. The board said all of them were Vietnamese. The owner of the school says he was singled out and blames a paperwork error after he hired a Vietnamese-speaking employee to help bridge the language barrier. The Board of Cosmetology said the business was falsifying records.

"No, I don't take any responsibility for falsifying those documents," said former cosmetology school owner Willie Payne.

The Cao Law Firm is handling the lawsuit. It did not return phone calls seeking a comment.



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