Economic Liberty Lawsuit Challenges Arizona’s Cosmetology Licensing LawsAfrican Hairbraiders Just Want to Earn an Honest Living

John Kramer
John Kramer · December 8, 2003

Phoenix, Ariz.—As an opening salvo in its effort to eradicate regulatory barriers to enterprise in Arizona, the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter (IJ-AZ) today filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix challenging the State’s cosmetology licensing laws on behalf of practitioners of African hairbraiding whose chosen profession is stifled by the laws.

“In the name of protecting public health and safety, the Board of Cosmetology licenses people to braid hair who have no experience in braiding, yet it forbids others who are proficient from pursuing that trade,” declared IJ-AZ Staff Attorney Tim Keller, the Institute’s lead attorney in the lawsuit, Farmer v. Arizona Board of Cosmetology. “Government regulations that exceed legitimate public health and safety objectives are cutting off the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.”

The Arizona Board of Cosmetology claims that African-style hairbraiders are “cosmetologists” and as cosmetologists, they must spend 1,600 hours (nearly one year) and upwards of $10,000 to go to an approved cosmetology school and then pass a Board examination. The training and examination are completely unrelated to hairbraiding, which is a natural hairstyle that uses no chemicals. As a result of the onerous licensing requirements, most braiders operate underground. The laws needlessly stifle a vital means of employment and entrepreneurship and suppress an important form of cultural expression.

The suit was field by Essence Farmer, an Arizona native who started braiding when she was 10 years old and who has braided hair in Maryland for the past several years. Maryland is one of a handful of states that exempt natural hairstylists from cosmetology regulations. Essence has recently moved back to Arizona and would like to open her own salon, but she is prohibited because she is not a licensed cosmetologist.

This lawsuit occurs against the backdrop a study of barriers to entrepreneurship, Burdensome Barriers: How Excessive Regulations Impede Entrepreneurship in Arizona, published today by the Goldwater Institute and authored by IJ-AZ attorney Keller. Both the study and this lawsuit are part of the Institute’s nationwide campaign to challenge regulations that block entry-level entrepreneurship.

“Our goal is to restore economic liberty—the right to earn an honest living—as a fundamental civil right,” said Clint Bolick, the Institute’s vice-president and national director of state chapters.



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