NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York is cracking down on the nail salon industry following a report of widespread exploitation of workers.

The crackdown comes after a two-part investigative series in the New York Times found nail salon workers were forced to toil long hours amid toxic chemicals performing manicures and pedicures for little wages.

The report also found many workers suffered serious health problems and there was little, if any, protection for them.

Times reporter Sarah Maslin Nir told “CBS This Morning” the system exploits an immigrant workforce, but salon owners have a kind of hero complex.

“These are people who maybe don’t have papers to work in this country, don’t speak a lot of English and they believe they are giving people a leg up,” she said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is creating a task force to conduct investigations into nail salons around the state and taking emergency measures to protect workers.

“We’re going to start a significant crackdown,” Cuomo said.

Salons will be required to post signs in a half-dozen languages that inform works of their rights, and will also perform outreach to encourage workers to come forward to report abuses, Cuomo said.

The task force will recover unpaid wages and shut down unlicensed businesses, Cuomo said. New health regulations will be created and implemented to require protective gear where warranted and increase ventilation in the salons that often reek of chemicals.

Under new regulations, nail salons would also be required to contact with a bonding agency to combat hiding of assets by owners found guilty of wage theft, WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reported.

“We will not stand idly by as workers are deprived of their hard-earned wages and robbed of their most basic rights. This Task Force will crack down on these kinds of abuses in the nail salon industry, enforce all of New York’s health and safety regulations, and help ensure that no one – regardless of their citizenship status or what language they speak – is illegally victimized by their employer,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Cuomo said the plans are taking shape in response to the reports last week.

“I have friends and family who say, I found this deal for a mani-pedi, but you’re not thinking about the conditions of the workers that are supplying that service. It’s very troubling,” Deborah Branch told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez.

The department of labor probed 29 salons in 2014 — finding 116 state labor violations alone. The Times stories were based on interviews with hundreds of salon workers.

Many business owners applauded the governor’s initiative.

“A lot of the things that the task force is going to put in place we already do here at Tenoverten. So, I’m happy to see they’re going to raise industry standards,” Nadine Abramcyk said.

“There has to be a dialogue so we can get to the right things. Then we can all abide by it, versus just sending in these task forces and hitting owners up with fines, and fines, and taxes,” Scott Buchanan added.

Cuomo said the task force will not be able to inspect every salon in the state. So he has asked workers and customers to report any illegal practices.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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