Six nail salons on Long Island will pay about $203,000 in back wages, damages and penalties, after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The investigation by the Long Island district office of the Wage and Hour Division resulted in the recovery of more than $178,000 in back wages and damages for 95 salon workers in Nassau and Suffolk counties who were underpaid between 2012 and 2015. As part of the settlement, the salons will also pay $24,640 in civil monetary penalties, the agency announced Wednesday.

“Nail salon workers cannot afford to be underpaid,” Irv Miljoner, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Long Island district office, said in a statement. “The industry employs vulnerable workers less likely to complain about unfair labor practices because of language barriers and fear of losing their jobs.”

  • Nails & Relaxation Spa I, at 80A Merrick Rd. in Copiague, will pay 19 employees $31,365 in back wages and the same amount in damages. The salon will also pay $5,544 in penalties.
  • M B Relaxation Spa, doing business as Nails & Relaxation Spa II, at 4650 Merrick Rd. in Massapequa, will pay 13 employees $17,986 in back wages. The salon will also pay $4,004 in penalties.
  • Nails & Relaxation Spa III, 2790 Sunrise Hwy. in Bellmore, will pay 27 employees $14,912 in back wages and the same amount in damages. It will also pay $8,316 in penalties.
  • Nails & Relaxation IV, 601-12 Portion Rd. in Ronkonkoma, will pay 13 employees $21,532.
  • Nails & Relaxation V, 2332 North Ocean Ave. in Farmingville, will pay six employees $9,045 in back wages and the same amount in damages. The salon will also pay $1,848 in penalties.
  • Aegean Spa & Nails, at 757 Montauk Hwy. in West Babylon, will pay 17 employees $14,384 in back wages and the same amount in damages. The salon will also pay $4,928 in penalties.

Scott Wang, owner of Aegean Spa & Nails, said Wednesday he doesn’t think he owes his employees overtime pay. Business was slow during the winter for his salon, which opened in December 2013, and business didn’t pick up until the summer, he said. Some of his initial employees left because they weren’t making enough tips, Wang said. He initially had six employees; now he has 12, who get paid $7.50 to $8 an hour, he said.

“It doesn’t make sense I owe employees money,” Wang said. “We just opened two years. It is a new store. We don’t make any money yet.”

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Due to the investigation, Wang said, he now keeps track of employees’ hours with a time sheet, in case labor department investigators come again.

People who answered the phone at the other five salons said the owners were not available for comment. Those salons don’t share the same ownership, but a family relationship exists between the owners of Nails and Relaxation Spa III, V and M B Relaxation Spa, according to a spokesman from the labor department.

The Long Island investigation was part of the division’s initiative to eliminate wage violations and help educate workers in the nail salon industry about their employment rights. The investigation found that workers were not paid overtime, and also uncovered record-keeping violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Typically, nail salon workers are paid a daily flat rate in cash, in an attempt to avoid paying overtime and keeping precise time records, the labor department found. The annual average earnings for a manicurist in Nassau and Suffolk counties is $20,670, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.