Former Nail Salon Owner Forced to Pay $750K in Back Wages

by | Apr 21, 2024

Correction: VIP Nail Salon in EG was part of the original complaint but was sold to new owners

Editor’s note, 4/23/24: the original story said that Cao still owned the EG salon. We apologize for the error.

The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered the owner of VIP Nail Salons (including one he formerly owned at 545 Main St. in East Greenwich), to pay $562,000 in back wages and $191,500 in compensatory damages after complaints by workers prompted an investigation that started in 2022. 

Owner Steven Xingri Cao agreed to the consent judgment in February (Consent Judgment / VIP Nails & Spa). Cao sold the salon in 2021 to Ashley Piao. 

According to the original complaint (Complaint against VIP Nail Salons), Cao fired Wing Ting Wong in 2020 after she filed a complaint with OSHA about a chemical disinfectant used at the salon that had exacerbated her asthma. She had first spoken with the manager of the Cumberland salon where she was working, as well as with owner Cao. One day after filing her complaint, Cao fired her and he threatened other employees with firing.

In addition to having to make payments to Wong and her friend Meixue Lin, who went to work at the Cumberland salon in 2019, Cao was required to write separate letters of “full apology” to the employees.  In addition, Cao is required to  hire a consultant to conduct comprehensive walk-through inspections of the nail salons to look for potential safety and health hazards to employees; and to hire an independent payroll monitor. 

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