Jestina Clayton sued the state of Utah recently, challenging a law requiring hair braiders to receive a cosmetology license. Clayton, a Sierra Leon native, had been braiding hair since she was a little girl, and used her skills to bring in extra cash to support her family, until she discovered her business was illegal without a license.
Utah requires that hair braiders take 2,000 hours of courses, including courses that deal with use of chemicals and other treatments that Mrs. Clayton does not use in braiding. She specializes in natural hair.
What is more, to obtain the license could cost up to $18,000. “I can understand if the state required us to take some health and sanitation courses, says Clayton, “But taking cosmetology classes that don’t even involve hair braiding doesn’t make any sense.“
Arlington, Virginia-based Institute for Justice, a non-profit public policy law firm that has successfully challenged similar laws in about seven states, is representing Clayton on her case.
African hair braiding is safe, and you shouldn’t need the government’s permission to practice this trade…Both the federal and Utah constitutions protect every individual’s right to earn an honest living in their chosen occupation free from pointless government interference. When the government imposes unreasonable regulations, as it has done here, courts must protect the individuals’ rights. No one should have to hire a lawyer or lobbyist just to braid hair,
says Paul Avelar, staff attorney with the Institute for Justice and lead counsel in this case. The licenses are expensive and irrelevant, according to the Institute, and not driven by a desire to protect the consumer. “…By forcing hair braiders to get an expensive license, cosmetology schools are guaranteed tuition-paying students and licensed cosmetologists are protected from competition, forcing consumers to pay more,” says Tim Keller, executive director of IJ-Arizona.
But not everyone is in agreement. When the Atlanta Post ran the article, commentators wrote:
Use of chemicals or not, hair braiding can cause permanent damage to your hair follicles or extreme hair breakage when done incorrectly.
Another commentator agrees:
Yes, hair braiders should require a license, but there should also be hair braiding schools that provide the right training. General cosmetology curriculum is not going to cut it. There need to be more specialized schools and separate program from general cosmetology.
Several states have laws regulating cosmetology and barbering that include hair braiding. Eight states, such as Utah and Iowa, require full cosmetology licenses, according to the Institute for Justice. In 2005, Mississippi removed a requirement that African-style braiders complete 1,500 hours of cosmetology classes or 300 hours of wig course work. Professional braiders there now must take a self-guided test and pay a $25 fee. Up to 10 states, including California and Arizona, exempt braiders from such laws.
What are your thoughts? Should a license be required?