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Pennsylvania Women Denied the Right to Work Win First Round in Suit Against the Pennsylvania Cosmetology Board

PHILADELPHIA—Today, a three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania denied the Cosmetology Board’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two Philadelphia-area women who want to end an unconstitutional requirement that stands in the way of their careers. The Board used Courtney Haveman’s and Amanda Spillane’s past legal problems to deny them the right to work even after each spent hundreds of hours in cosmetology school. Courtney and Amanda, represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ), will now be able to continue the legal challenge to the requirement that applicants prove their “good moral character” before receiving a license.

“Courtney and Amanda deserve a fresh start,” said IJ Attorney Andrew Ward. “The Cosmetology Board argued that instead of going to court, they should have re-applied into the same system that treated them so badly the first time. We are grateful that the court rejected that argument. And we’re looking forward to proving that this arbitrary requirement stands in the way of good careers for Courtney, Amanda and many other women in Pennsylvania.”

After spending thousands of dollars on cosmetology school, the Board, citing a “good moral character” requirement, used Courtney’s and Amanda’s past legal problems to deny them the right to work. But their past offenses have nothing to do with their ability to work as estheticians—cosmetologists who focus on the beauty and care of the face. And while cosmetologists are subject to a good moral character test, Pennsylvania barber licenses lack the same requirement.

“Right now, I work in a salon, but I’m not allowed to do the job I trained for,” said Courtney. “The Board can’t stop me from shampooing hair but can stop me from working as an esthetician. That doesn’t make sense. If I could get my license, I could make more money to provide for myself and my young son.”

Pennsylvania requires good moral character for a number of jobs, ranging from landscape architect to poultry technician. Such laws limiting people previously convicted of a crime from working are known as “collateral consequences.” Nationwide, there are approximately 30,000 such laws related to employment alone, and they are found at every level of government: local, state and federal. With approximately 1 in 5 Americans required to hold a license to legally work, there are many common occupations from which ex-offenders are excluded, making it that much harder for them to find a job and stay out of trouble.

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