Consumer Affairs Head Says Pricing Law Helps Protect Civil Rights

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — City inspectors are taking aim at local salons for gender discrimination and are following a little-known law that requires the price for one service be the same, regardless of the customer’s sex.

All hair is created equal, so should a customer pay more for a haircut because she’s a woman?

“I don’t agree with that. All prices should be the same — man and woman,” Janine Castro told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez on Wednesday night.

New York City Commissioner of Consumer Affairs Jonathan Mintz told 1010 WINS the consumer protection law is a civil rights law that prohibits people being treated differently based upon their gender.

“Businesses don’t intend to discriminate. What they intend to do is try to find a short-hand version of explaining why they think some people should be charged more for a service that looks like what other people should be charged for. And what we explain to them is that they just need to be specific about what those reasons are,” Mintz said.

Ania Siemieniaka, owner of Freckle Skin and Hair in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, was fined $150 for charging women $10 more than men for a basic haircut.

“We have longer hair, we use more products — you spend far more time cutting women’s hair versus gentleman’s,” she told Sanchez.

This year, the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs fined 103 salons and barbershops for gender pricing. Last year, it issued 580 violations.

Mintz said several more have also been issued in previous years.

“We’ve issued about a thousand violations over the last several years and those violations for violating this civil rights law tend to focus either on barber shops and salons or on laundries and dry cleaners,” he said.

The commissioner added, “Generally, a store can charge whatever prices they want for whatever reasons they want, but they can’t discriminate. The law requires that those prices can never be based upon a person’s gender.”

The gender pricing law went into effect in 1998, yet many business owners that spoke to CBS 2 said they didn’t know about it.

Nail salon owner Maggie Lin was fined $900 for charging men $8 for a manicure, while women paid just $6. She said a man’s nails are tougher and twice the work.

“Men is more harder, we more tired. One man’s feet is like two woman’s feet,” Lin said.

“I’m sure my hands is a little bit rougher than a female…females tend to take care of their nails where guys wouldn’t,” said customer Chris Duncan.

For now, these business owners said they’ll test their luck and keep cutting hair and nails and not their prices.

Where do you stand on the issue? Share your thoughts in the comments section below…

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