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NY Dems push for law mandating 500 hours of training for ‘shampoo assistants’

Washing hair is about to get a lot more complicated if a trio of Albany Democrats have their way.

A new bill moving through the State Assembly and Senate will require “shampoo assistants” working in hair salons to complete a minimum of 500 hours of a 1,000-hour course in cosmetology. The completion of 500 hours will entitle applicants to a newly established “Shampoo Assistant Certificate.”

The legislation is sponsored in the Assembly by Carrie Woerner of Saratoga Springs and John T. McDonald III of Albany. A companion Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Jen Metzger of Middletown.

There is currently no entry for “shampoo assistant” in the state’s division of licensing services manual. Outside watchdog groups told The Post the proposal was a ridiculous new regulation that would make it harder for some people to find work even as the state faces historic unemployment.

The job primarily involves draping the client, lathering the head and rinsing, and odd jobs like sweeping hair off the floor.

“It’s crazy. Talk about being an obstruction to people getting after-school jobs or an entry-level job, or being able to make a living while learning a trade,” Cam MacDonald, of the Empire Center for Public Policy, told The Post.

Cosmetology school isn’t cheap, with programs in New York running around $13,000. “The evidence points to this being a barrier to entry that favors existing cosmetologists and the cosmetology schools,” MacDonald said.

“It’s shocking that with so many New Yorkers out of work that some legislators want to throw obstacles in front of job seekers. Their focus should be on cutting taxes and regulations, not creating more,” added Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Staten Island Republican.

Assemblyman John McDonald III
Assemblyman John McDonald IIIHans Pennink/AP

The bill is a hidden cash cow for the state. Under “fiscal implications,” its authors note it would “provide additional revenue to the state in the way of application fees and fines for practicing as a shampoo assistant without the proper certificate or practicing as a shampoo assistant after the certificate has been suspended or revoked.” It doesn’t specify how much the fines would be, but an earlier version of the bill from 2019 suggested 500 bucks for a first offense and a $1,000 for every one subsequently.

When asked for comment, a rep for Assemblywoman Woerner directed The Post to Todd Garofano, executive director of the Salon & Spa Professionals of NYS — which pushed the bill.

“I presented the idea to Assemblywoman Woerner’s office,” Garofano told The Post, defending the measure. Garofano said the shampoo assistant role was a gray area within current state law and his hope was to create a legal framework so salon owners could hire them without fear.

“There are people in the state right now who have hired ‘shampoo assistants’ who are being fined now for doing it. It takes it above board, makes it legitimate,” Garofano said.

A worker shampoos hair at the Eliut Salon in Manhattan.
Tamara Beckwith

John Vezza, whose family has owned Astor Hair in New York City for 75 years dismissed that claim, saying he currently employed “a few” shampoo assistants — all of whom would be out of work if the law passed.

“Nobody is going to hire a shampoo assistant. You will eliminate the job immediately,” he told The Post. “A 10-year-old kid would be qualified enough to wash someone’s hair.”

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