I-TEAM: 'Modern day slavery' causing nail salons to be under greater scrutiny

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Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- The person who does your nails could be a victim of modern day slavery.

Labor trafficking is the second most common form of human trafficking and nails salons are a haven for it.

Georgia is 7th in the nation for human trafficking. It's such a concern the Board of Cosmetology is now training their inspectors on how to spot it.

"People are naive and think it’s not happening, but it happens all over the United States," Kay Kendrick, chairwoman of the state cosmetology board, said.

“It’s very sad. It’s a whole different form of slavery in modern America.”

Human trafficking in nail salons is becoming an increasing concern for the board.

"There is a lot of transient -- I will say it that way,” Kendrick said. “There is a lot of human trafficking and a lot of it goes through our nail salons where they've moved them from out a country and move them from one salon to another. Sometimes they'll get them licensed and sometimes they won't, and when we cite them, the next time we go back those people aren't at that shop any longer or we have an inspector go in and five will run out the back door."

That actually happened with us. We went in to one local nail salon to ask about a license and several of the women working there got up and ran out.

People who aren't U.S. citizens are the most likely victims of human trafficking, according to GBI. They're the least likely to come forward, too, because of a language barrier and being far from family.

"They buy them from their country, they bring them over here, and they work them in these salons to pay off their travel to get here, their expenses, but some of them never get paid off and they are at the mercy of their salon owners,” Kendrick said.

That's what investigators say happened at a nail salon in Charlotte last year. The charged two with human trafficking, involuntary servitude, and conspiracy.

Kendrick says her inspectors are keeping their eyes open and we should, too.

“What our inspectors have been told is to look for signs in a facility like there are bed rolls in there, if there is food in there,” Kendrick said.

The victims could be sitting across from us.

Another warning sign goes back to the language barrier. In Georgia, if you want to be a licensed nail tech, you have to be able to take the exam in English. If you don’t pass, you can't get a license. If you suspect human trafficking is happening in your nail salon, call (888) 373-7888.

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