By Tim Keller
Five Arizona entrepreneurs have proven once again that you can stand up to government bureaucrats and vindicate your civil rights. In June, five threaders teamed up with the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter to file Gutierrez v. Aune, a lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Cosmetology, challenging the board’s requirement that threaders first obtain a cosmetology license to use cotton thread to remove facial hair.
Threading is an all-natural method of removing human hair—most commonly from around the eyebrows—using nothing more than a single strand of cotton thread. There are no sharp objects or chemicals involved. A threader winds the thread between his or her fingers to form a loop that can be opened and closed to trap and remove hair from its follicles. Threading is cheaper and faster than other hair removal techniques. It costs approximately $10 and takes between five and 10 minutes to complete, depending on how much hair is removed. Threading also creates vibrant competition with other hair removal practices, creates jobs and keeps prices low for consumers.
Four months after filing the case, IJ-AZ negotiated a victory for economic liberty with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in the form of a “consent judgment.” The judgment, which was signed by a judge and is enforceable like any other judgment, prohibits the board from requiring cosmetology licenses for any threader in Arizona. Further, the board cannot subject threaders to regulation, harassment or other penalties.
The judgment brought a swift victory and a successful end to the litigation. Our clients filed this case to vindicate one of their most precious constitutional rights—the right to earn an honest living free from unreasonable government regulation—and they accomplished their mission.
For a long time, threading was unregulated in Arizona. But the board recently declared that threading fell within its jurisdiction and began requiring all threaders to obtain a board-issued cosmetology license. To be eligible to take the licensing exam, which does not test an applicant’s knowledge of threading, a would-be threader had to take at least 600 hours of classroom instruction at a cost of more than $10,000—not one of these hours would teach threading. That requirement has now been zapped off the books.
“I am so grateful that I can now work without having to get a completely unnecessary license,” said Juana Gutierrez, an eyebrow threader and IJ-AZ’s lead client. “I can focus on my work rather than looking over my shoulder for some government inspector demanding to see my license.”
The consent judgment comes at a perfect time for threader Yesinia Davila, who recently moved from California to southern Arizona. California exempts threaders from having to obtain a full-blown cosmetology license. She came to Arizona with the intention of opening her own threading business, but very nearly had to open that business across the border in Mexico in order to avoid Arizona’s absurd licensing requirement. Yesinia, though not an IJ-AZ client, will nevertheless be protected by the judgment and is now laying the groundwork to pursue her dreams in Arizona.
After 10 years of litigating in the Grand Canyon State, IJ-AZ has never lost an economic liberty challenge. We will continue that fine tradition in the coming years as we seize every opportunity to protect the right to earn an honest living.
Tim Keller is the IJ Arizona Chapter executive director.