Institute for Justice · October 28, 2019

Baton Rouge, La.—A judge in Baton Rouge this morning denied the Louisiana Board of Cosmetology’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit from three Louisiana hair braiders contesting the state’s hair braiding license. Current Louisiana licensing requirements force hair braiders to undergo 500 hours of training to legally braid hair as a career in the state, the most onerous specialty braiding license in the country. Hair braiders Ashley N’Dakpri, Lynn Schofield and Michelle Robertson partnered with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to challenge the requirement in June for unconstitutionally violating their rights to earn a living.

“The government should not force people to spend thousands of dollars to learn a skill they already know,” IJ Attorney Jaimie Cavanaugh said. “That’s not just wrong; it’s unconstitutional. We look forward to vindicating the economic liberty rights of all Louisianan hair braiders.”

When economic liberty is under attack, would-be entrepreneurs vote with their feet. Take plaintiff Michelle Robertson, who dreamed of opening a braiding salon in Shreveport, Louisiana. She did not have the means to stop working for three months to attend the one school that taught the course, nor could she find other braiders who could legally braid hair in Louisiana. So she moved to Texas, where braiding is legal without an unnecessary license from the state. 

I hope that the courts soon find that there’s no good reason to have these requirements. I just don’t want it to be impossible to grow my business,” said plaintiff Ashley N’Dakpri.

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 IJ’s first lawsuit was filed on behalf of hair braiders in Washington, D.C. Since D.C. repealed its license, IJ has won a dozen hair braiding lawsuits, either when courts struck down or lawmakers repealed the challenged licenses.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