DENVER – A former nail technician at a Denver Ella Bliss Beauty Bar location filed a class action lawsuit against the company alleging wage theft on Thursday.
The lead plaintiff in the case, Lisa Miles, claims Ella Bliss forced workers to perform janitorial duties without pay, refused to pay overtime and shorted employees on their commissions. After losing her job at the salon last year, she came forward with the lawsuit in federal court against all three Ella Bliss locations in the Denver Metro area.
“The amount of money that I actually lost out on my commissions was pretty substantial," said Miles.
"Instead of getting a commission on a $58 service, some girls are getting a commission on as little as $15 so that’s quite substantial.”
Miles is not disputing that she was paid at least in part for the 20-35 hours while she performed services. The legal battle now stems from the extra hours she claims were not paid to clean and service the facility. Miles claims these services were something she was not paid to do, but was still expected from her employer.
"Those things are absolutely not true and I look forward to proving that in a courtroom that it is not true," said Ella Bliss Beauty Bar Co-Owner Brooke Vanhavermatt. "If there ever was an issue we would make sure that we were taking care of it. We follow the law to a T and we have our human resources look through everything. We make sure we are following Colorado state law."
University of Denver Assistant Professor of International Studies Rebecca Galemba said the industries most vulnerable to wage theft in Colorado are hotels, restaurants, other service industries and construction. Galemba's work is primarily focused on immigrant workers working in the construction business in Colorado.
"The problem often is these workers are promised these wages and then not paid them at the end of the day or strung along on a project and then the pay fails to materialize," said Galemba. "There are so many different levels of subcontracting that sometimes for workers who want to hold their employer accountable they might be here today and gone tomorrow or by the time they realize they are never going to be paid they've already been desperate going onto the next job or that employer is no longer able to be located."
The Colorado Fiscal Institute did a study in 2014 about wage theft. The study estimates employers steal around $750 million a year from employees in the state, impacting more than half a million Colroado workers. The study also shows wage theft impacting 1 in 10 Coloradans, disproportionally more women than men, but finds women are less likely to come forward to report the issue.