Arizona Eyebrow Threaders File Lawsuit Challenging Licensing Scheme That Blocks Jobs

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · June 29, 2011

Arlington, Va.—Is it constitutional for industry insiders to use government power to hamstring their competitors? That is the central legal question in Gutierrez v. Aune, a lawsuit filed today in Maricopa County Superior Court by the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter on behalf of five eyebrow threaders against the Arizona Board of Cosmetology. The big-government regulations threaten to put honest entrepreneurs out of business for no other reason than to protect industry insiders from competition.

As the Arizona Republic explains in a feature today on the lawsuit, threading is a natural and safe method of hair removal that simply uses a single strand of cotton thread. The threader forms a loop that is brushed along the customer’s skin to remove unwanted hair, most commonly from the eyebrows. Threaders do not use any chemicals, dyes, hot wax or sharp objects. But the Arizona Board of Cosmetology—an unelected, unaccountable agency controlled by members of the cosmetology cartel—has declared that threaders must obtain at least 600 hours of classroom instruction at Board-approved private cosmetology schools that charge upwards of $11,500, even though not one hour of instruction teaches the art of threading and nothing in the Board’s licensing examination tests an applicant’s knowledge of threading or skill as a threader.

“Our clients use their threading skills to serve their clients and support themselves and their families,” said Tim Keller, executive director of the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter. “But Arizona’s Cosmetology Board has cut off the bottom rungs of the economic ladder by requiring threaders to take hundreds of hours of classroom instruction at expensive private beauty schools when not a single hour teaches or tests threading.”

Juana Gutierrez is one of the threaders the IJ Arizona Chapter represents. Juana has been threading for eight years and manages six threading kiosks in Phoenix, Ariz. She is a new mom who had to return to work one week after giving birth to her first child. She does not have the time or money to waste on unnecessary and expensive training at beauty school. Juana is not looking for anything from the government other than for it to not force her out of work to protect her politically connected competitors.

“Threaders do not need full-blown cosmetology training,” said Gutierrez. “We don’t use wax or any chemicals. We don’t do facials. We just use a piece of thread to shape eyebrows.”

The Board of Cosmetology is threatening both businesses that employ unlicensed threaders—and threaders themselves—with fines of up to $2500 and criminal penalties of up to six months in jail if they do not cease threading immediately. But the Board has never considered the fact that threading is different than hair removal techniques like waxing and tweezing. Imposing regulations on an occupation it has never studied and does not understand is no way for the government to act.

“The licensing scheme does not protect customers,” said IJ Arizona Chapter staff attorney Paul Avelar. “Instead, it protects licensed cosmetologists from competition and puts more money in the cosmetology schools’ hands.”

“The Arizona Constitution protects our clients’ rights to earn an honest living without first having to obtain a completely unnecessary license,” Keller declared. “Our goal is to restore the right to earn an honest living as a fundamental right in Arizona, and we need judges to protect that right.”

The IJ Arizona Chapter has been litigating to restore economic liberty as a constitutionally protected right for nearly 10 years and has won several significant victories. In 2004, IJ’s lawsuit Farmer v. Arizona Board of Cosmetology, led the Arizona Legislature to exempt natural hair braiders from the state’s cosmetology scheme. Similarly, Rissmiller v. Arizona Structural Pest Control Commission led to legislation allowing gardeners the freedom to spray weeds without first jumping through unreasonable regulatory hoops. And in Bell v. Pinal County Board of Supervisors, IJ scored a victory in court when it defeated Pinal County’s ridiculous demand that Dale and Spencer Bell ban dancing outside their Country & Western steakhouse, San Tan Flat, or else face fines of almost $200,000 a year.