For this month’s On the Couch, we turn to Linda Green, director of operations and education for the nail department at Seattle-based Gene Juarez Salons and Spas. The chain owns seven salons and spas, two beauty schools, and an advanced training facility. Green has been with Gene Juarez for 19 years and supervises 63 nail technicians and 10 instructors.

Sick of Sick Time

How do I handle a tech who calls in sick all the time—and usually when I need her the most? Techs are hard to find in my area and she does good work when she’s here. How much should I put up with?

Dear Left in the Lurch: This issue must be addressed immediately! Your clients are counting on you to honor their appointments. It doesn’t matter how good the tech is when she is there, if you, her coworkers, and her clients can’t count on her. You are at risk of losing clients, not to mention the fact that is sets a bad example for other staff members if you let this behavior go unchecked.

I would give this tech three chances. First, in order to protect yourself, you need to create a paper trail documenting the dates she calls in sick. You need to note in the file each time you talk her, what was discussed, and that you clearly stated the consequences with your employee.

The first time you sit down to talk, let her know how being late affects her business and yours, and explain that her coworkers have to pick up the slack. Remember to let her know how pleased you and her clients are with her performance when she actually makes it in. Suggest she take better care of herself and ask her what she can do to help improve this situation.


The next time she calls in sick, sit down with her again. Let her know you’ve had this conversation before and as much as you and her clients appreciate her work, it causes too much turmoil when she calls in sick. Tell her that the next time she calls in sick she will need to bring in a doctor’s note. Explain that if she doesn’t, she is at risk of losing her job. Let her know you are documenting this and it will go in her file.

The third time she calls in sick, if she doesn’t have a doctor’s note, let her know if she is sick again without a doctor’s note within a certain time frame (perhaps a month), she will be let go. Have this written down and have her sign it.

If she shows up consistently for a month, reinforce the good behavior by getting her a Good Job card with a Starbucks or similar coupon in it. Then set out some new goals for her. Clearly state your future expectations (i.e., how many sick days she is allowed to have for the next six months) and the consequences if she doesn’t meet these expectations. Make sure your agreement is in writing and that she signs the agreement.

Guilty Fills-in

I have a client who has come to me faithfully for two years. My problem is that her nails never stay on no matter what I do. She has gone to several different techs and has always had this problem. She has psoriasis, and very thin, extremely dry skin. One slip of the file and she is a bloody mess. She often comes in with just three nails on—or else they are all on but by the time I nip all the lifted acrylic, she is down to nothing. I feel bad, like it’s my fault, so I only charge her for a fill. She is a very good tipper so charging extra for fall-offs doesn’t seem right to me. But I can’t keep putting full sets on her every two weeks. Any suggestions?

Dear Fed Up With Full Sets: The fact that she has psoriasis presents an adhesion problem. This condition affects the integrity of the nail surface, which is why we often see pitting. You’re right when you say you can’t keep putting full sets on her every two weeks. For the health and integrity of her natural nails, you should take your client’s nails off and begin a natural nail care regime. With the proper care and the right base and top coat treatments your client could enjoy long beautiful nails. If this client absolutely insists on wearing artificial nails, then you have a judgment call to make. If the natural nails are badly damaged, you should refuse to work on her.

Tech Has Girl Trouble

Sometimes parents bring their 11-to 15-year-old kids into the salon to get a full set of acrylics. I really hate to put acrylics on them because they are so young. I refuse the service, but then my boss says to do it because they have the parent’s permission. Are there set rules as to an age limit by the state boards? I fear the girls ripping one off while playing and then the parents coming back on me. Can I be held responsible for any damage that happens when they rip one off? Also how can I refuse the service in a nice way without upsetting my boss or the parent? Please help.

Dear Stuck in the Middle: I understand your dilemma. You’re caught between your professional integrity and the pressure of your employer to accommodate and please the client. Because there is no legal restriction on the age of a client who can receive nail enhancements, you should discuss your concerns with your employer and together draw up a release form for young clients’ parents to sign.

The length of the nail would be my biggest concern. You should educate both mother and daughter that the length of the nail should be no longer than one-third of the natural nail’s length.

You should also draft a client handout outlining the proper care required for nail enhancements and make sure it goes home with both parent and child. The handout should make it clear that the teen’s activity level may affect how long the nails last and in what condition. It should also explain that when enhancements break, the product can take layers of the natural nail with it. Additionally, it should stress the importance of biweekly fills.

You may still be uncomfortable putting enhancements on teens, but at least you can feel assured that everyone involved understands the risk involved and has acknowledged them in writing.

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