Institute for Justice sues Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology asserting its 500-hour hair-braiding permit requirement violates Louisiana’s Constitution.

 


Lynn Schofield, one of several plaintiffs suing the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology over its requirement of 500 hours of training to obtain a hair-braiding permit in order to legally practice braiding hair in Louisiana.

On October 30, 2017, the  Institute for Justice’s Lee McGrath made an appeal to the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology (LSBC) for it to voluntarily loosen its stringent requirement that hair braiders undergo 500 hours of training in order to obtain a “hair braiding permit” from the LSBC in order to legally braid hair in Louisiana.  As the title to the previously-linked feature demonstrates, the LSBC let his pleas go in one ear and out the other.

Despite Gov. John Bel Edwards’ appointees digging their heels in the ground and indicating basically they’d abolish the 500-hour requirement over their dead bodies (trust us, if we could legally videotape their discussions prior to the meeting, they’d be extremely revealing to our viewership in that regard), there was some reason for optimism as, on January 9, 2018, Gov. Edwards, in what many have characterized as a half-hearted attempt to make himself appear “business friendly” for his upcoming re-election efforts on October 12, 2019, stated publicly that he felt some occupational licenses should be abolished in Louisiana.

The only vocation Edwards specifically referenced, however, was that of florists.  Louisiana is the only state in the nation to license florists, and many Republicans didn’t find his singling out florists as coincidental since then-long-time Louisiana Republican Party Chairman, Roger Villere, is a florist.

Nevertheless, on April 4, 2018, Gov. Edwards made it a point to let everyone in the room know that he was watching the proceedings of a bill by a key ally of his, Regina Barrow, which would have DOUBLED the number of required hours for the hair-braiding permit to 1,000!.  We’d strongly encourage subscribers to watch the video on the previous link because, as the title indicates, it was an unmitigated train wreck for the pro-licensing crowd (our good friend Scott McKay of The Hayride summed that fact up better than we ever could).

So, either one of two things transpired:  #1) Gov. Edwards was never sincere about eliminating the hair braiding 500-hour permit requirement, or #2) he was sincere and lacked the clout (or was unwilling to expend that clout) to generate sufficient support for Rep. Julie Emerson’s (R-Carencro) bill to abolish the permitting requirement in Louisiana.

As a result, several African American plaintiffs, one of whom shut down three of her four locations due to the extreme burdens entailing the permit (500 hours and upwards of $10,000 tuition, with the only school offering the curriculum being in Monroe, Louisiana), sued the LSBC alleging that the licensing requirement violates Louisiana’s Constitution in inhibiting their abilities to earn a living without overly burdensome requirements imposed by a state agency.  Simultaneously to filing the lawsuit, IJ also issued this press release , which we present below in its entirety:

Why does the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology require 500 hours of training to do something as safe as hair braiding? That is the question three Louisiana hair braiders raised in a new lawsuit Thursday with the Institute for Justice (IJ), a national public interest law firm that fights for economic liberty.

Lynn Schofield, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, experienced firsthand the harms of Louisiana’s unnecessary red tape. She moved to Louisiana in 2000 and opened Afro Touch, the state’s first salon dedicated solely to hair braiding: Afro Touch. It was so successful, she expanded her business to four locations with more than 20 employees. But that all changed in 2003 when the Board created the braiding license. Braiding without a license is punishable by fines of up to $5,000 per incident. Unable to fully staff her salons, Lynn could no longer expand her business, and instead was forced to shut down salons.

“I want to grow my business, but it’s impossible with Louisiana’s rules,” Lynn said. Today, only one salon remains.

“It is unconstitutional to license something as safe and common as hair braiding,” said IJ Attorney Jaimie Cavanaugh. “Economic liberty—or the right to earn a living in the profession of one’s choosing—is a right protected by the Louisiana Constitution.”

When economic liberty is under attack, would-be entrepreneurs vote with their feet. Take plaintiff Michelle Robertson, a former resident of Shreveport, Louisiana, who dreamed of opening her own braiding salon there before relocating to Texas. She did not have the means to stop working for three months to enroll in the 500-hour braiding course, nor could she find other braiders who could legally braid hair for a living in Louisiana. Decades of braiding experience meant nothing to Louisiana’s Board of Cosmetology, so she moved to Texas, where braiding is legal and she can pursue other opportunities.

“Braiding does not become dangerous when you cross the border from Texas to Louisiana,” said IJ Senior Attorney Wesley Hottot. “Twenty-seven states require no license of any kind for hair braiding.  A majority of states recognize that licensing braiders offers no public benefits, but causes real economic harms.”

Who does benefit from the license requirement are the self-interested members of the Cosmetology Board. Louisiana’s specialty braiding license is the most onerous in the country, but the Board keeps it that way because the license requirement is not meant to benefit the public. Instead, the license benefits cosmetology schools that want to profit from braiders and existing cosmetologists who do not want to compete with braiders. And the Board is composed of both licensed cosmetologists and cosmetology school owners. It is no surprise then that the Board wants to keep the braiding license exactly as it is.

The Louisiana Constitution also prohibits the Cosmetology Board from lawmaking, even laws related to cosmetology. The 500-hour requirement was created by the Board, not the legislature, and is nowhere in the law. The Louisiana State Legislature has the sole authority to make laws—the Cosmetology Board can only enforce them.

Plaintiff Ashley N’Dakpri, Lynn’s niece and the manager of the sole remaining Afro Touch location, said that she looks forward to the fight to take down Louisiana’s braiding license.

“It would be easier for me just to move to Mississippi or Texas, but this is my home.  And I won’t stop until every Louisianan can go into the hair braiding business without this useless license,” Ashley said.

This case continues IJ’s national Braiding Freedom Initiative, which seeks to protect braiders’ right to pursue their livelihoods free from unnecessary licensing laws, and it is IJ’s first lawsuit challenging a specialty braiding license. Its first lawsuit was filed on behalf of hair braiders in Washington, D.C.  Since D.C. repealed its license, IJ has won a dozen hair braiding lawsuits, either when courts struck down or lawmakers repealed the challenged licenses. This lawsuit is also part of IJ’s continuing efforts to expand economic protections under state constitutions.

We at Sound Off Louisiana also tuned in for a news conference announcing the litigation, and we’re providing video of that news conference below:

IJ’s news conference of 11 a.m. Thursday, June 20, 2019 announcing its hair-braiding lawsuit against the LSBC.

The case was assinged to 19th JDC Judge Wilson Fields.  We commit to attend any and all court hearings on this litigation and update our subscribers as they transpire.

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