Louisiana Eyebrow Threaders File Lawsuit Against Pointless Licensing Requirements

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · August 2, 2016

New Orleans, La.—Why is the Louisiana Board of Cosmetology requiring eyebrow threaders to spend 750 hours learning cosmetology techniques that threaders do not use? That is the question raised in a new lawsuit filed by the Institute for Justice (IJ), a national public interest law firm, on behalf of Lata Jagtiani of the Threading Studio & Spa and threaders Ushaben Chudasama and Panna Shah.

Louisiana requires would-be threaders to get an esthetician’s license to practice, but before they can obtain the license, eyebrow threaders must spend at least 750 hours in beauty school and pass three exams. Yet, the Louisiana Board of Cosmetology does not require beauty schools to teach threading and the Board’s licensing exams do not test threading.

Last year, IJ won a landmark case on behalf of threaders in Texas who challenged identical requirements. The Texas Supreme Court deemed it “oppressive” to require 750 hours of training for the simple skill of eyebrow threading, and it declared Texas’ identical licensing requirements unconstitutional.

“Eyebrow threading is a simple technique that uses just a single strand of cotton thread and nothing else,” said IJ attorney Meagan Forbes, who represents the plaintiffs. “The government cannot force threaders to quit work and to waste time and money learning cosmetology techniques that threaders do not use. That’s not just wrong; it’s unconstitutional.”

Plaintiff Lata Jagtiani owns and operates the Threading Studio & Spa in Metairie. Until recently, she employed unlicensed threaders who were experts at what they do. Licensed estheticians do not know how to thread. In June, the Board cracked down on Lata’s business and ordered her to fire her unlicensed employees, including Plaintiffs Ushaben Chudasama and Panna Shah. Lata cannot find licensed estheticians who perform threading as well as Ushaben and Panna, both of whom have more than 20 years experience. Now Lata’s business is on the line.

“My business is my life. I started this salon to support my family and to pursue my American Dream,” said Lata Jagtiani. “But I had no idea it would have been easier for me to start a business in India than here. For some reason, the Cosmetology Board does not want my business to survive.”

The threaders’ lawsuit argues that requiring them to endure 750 hours of irrelevant training and three irrelevant exams violates their right to economic liberty—the right to earn a living free from irrational government interference—which is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Louisiana Constitution.

“Licensing regulations have to have reasons,” said IJ attorney Wesley Hottot, who also represents the plaintiffs. “These regulations require zero threading training. The only thing these regulations accomplish is to make it harder to work as a threader.”

In addition to its 2015 victory on behalf eyebrow threaders in Texas, in 2013, IJ successfully represented the monks of St. Joseph Abbey in their challenge to Louisiana’s casket-sales law, where the court protected their constitutional right to earn a living and declared the law unconstitutional.

The Board of cosmetology now has 15 days to respond to the lawsuit.