Texas Eyebrow Threaders File Lawsuit Against State Board

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · December 8, 2009

Austin, Texas—Should Texas entrepreneurs have to pay $20,000 to obtain up to 1,500 hours of instruction in a school that does not even teach their trade?

That is the question the Institute for Justice seeks to answer in a lawsuit filed today on behalf of eight Texas eyebrow-threading entrepreneurs.  The suit challenges Texas’ threading-licensing scheme as a violation of the constitutional right to earn an honest living.

Watch a 2-minute video describing the case:  www.ij.org/txthreadingvideo

“Texas has always been a beacon for entrepreneurship,” said lead attorney Wesley Hottot of the Institute for Justice Texas Chapter (IJ-TX), a public interest law firm with a history of defending the rights of entrepreneurs.  “That proud heritage is in danger when the state tries to regulate every new industry rather than trusting entrepreneurs and consumers.”

Threading is a booming industry in Texas because it is cheaper, faster and less painful than waxing.  In addition to winning over consumers, the industry is creating good-paying jobs and exciting opportunities for Texas entrepreneurs.

“We use tightly-wound cotton thread to remove unwanted eyebrow hair—and that’s it,” said IJ client and entrepreneur Ash Patel.  “Eyebrow threading is an ancient technique.  It’s painless.  It’s even safer than using tweezers.  No chemicals, dyes or sharp objects are used in eyebrow threading.  And that’s why I don’t understand why the state of Texas wants to regulate us.”

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) is now demanding that eyebrow threaders obtain expensive and irrelevant licenses in Western-style cosmetology.  Threading is not mentioned anywhere in state law, yet TDLR expects threaders, some with over 20 years of experience, to immediately stop working and spend $20,000 obtaining up to 1,500 hours of instruction in government-approved beauty schools that do not even teach threading.

Further, threaders must pass government-approved cosmetology exams that do not test  threading.  Inspectors have already begun imposing $2,000 fines to threaders who cannot immediately comply.  The licensing scheme protects the cosmetology industry from honest competition, but does nothing to help consumers.

“I grew up in India and I found it difficult to land on a good opportunity to start my own business,” said Ash Patel.  “That’s why I came to Texas.  I am only asking for a fair chance to pursue my American Dream.”

In conjunction with today’s lawsuit, the Institute for Justice is releasing a report on the state of entrepreneurship in Texas:  Bureaucratic Barbed Wire: How Occupational Licensing Fences Out Texas Entrepreneurs.  The report shows that entrepreneurs all across Texas are being denied their constitutional right to economic liberty—the freedom to earn an honest living in the occupation of one’s choice free from arbitrary or excessive government regulation.

“The only legitimate reason for imposing limits on our economic liberty through occupational licensing is to protect the public from a real threat to health or safety,” said Wesley Hottot, author of the study.  “Too often, however, the real reason occupational licensing is imposed is to protect an existing industry from honest competition.  That is not a constitutional function of government.”

IJ-TX Executive Director Matt Miller said, “It is time for Texas to recommit itself to the cause of economic liberty and do away with its unreasonable licensing regimes.  Today’s lawsuit will help restore our state’s proud heritage of entrepreneurship and begin securing the right to earn an honest living for all Texans.”

Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice is a national public interest law firm that has represented individuals across the country who have successfully defended their right to economic liberty in courts of law and the court of public opinion.