Austin, Tex.—Today, the Supreme Court of Texas ruled in favor of five eyebrow threaders and against a state agency that wanted to lock them out of their jobs with expensive and irrelevant licensing requirements.
The Court ruled 6 to 3 that the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) violated the state constitution when it ordered eyebrow threaders to obtain 750 hours of conventional cosmetology training, not a minute of which is devoted to eyebrow threading, and required them to pass two examinations, neither of which tests eyebrow threading. The Court concluded that “the Threaders have met their high burden of proving that, as applied to them, the requirement of 750 hours of training to become licensed is not just unreasonable or harsh, but it is so oppressive that it violates Article I, § 19 of the Texas Constitution.” The court also parted ways with the U.S. Supreme Court by applying a historic Texas standard for reviewing constitutional challenges to economic regulations:
Section 19’s substantive due process provisions undoubtedly were intended to bear at least some burden for protecting individual right that the United States Supreme Court determined were not protected by the federal Constitution. That burden has been recognized in various decisions of Texas courts for over one hundred and twenty-five years. We continue to do so today[.]
Justice Johnson wrote the majority opinion in which Justices Green, Willett, Lehrmann and Devine joined.
Justice Boyd filed a concurring opinion, in which he agreed that Texas’s threading regulations are unconstitutional, writing: “if the application of any regulatory licensing scheme were ever constitutionally invalid, this one is.” Boyd disagreed with the Court’s use of a Texas-specific test because he thought the threading regulations would fail even under federal standards.
All nine justices agreed that the state’s regulations are “obviously too much,” as Chief Justice Hecht noted in his dissent.
The case began in 2008, when TDLR suddenly decided that eyebrow threading—a traditional South Asian practice that uses only cotton thread to remove eyebrow hair—required the same license that conventional cosmetologists need for techniques like waxing, makeup and chemical peels. TDLR issued $2,000 penalties to threaders across the state and ordered them to quit their jobs until they completed coursework in private beauty schools costing between $7,000 and $22,000. None of this coursework is required to address eyebrow threading and the state’s cosmetology examinations do not require any knowledge of threading.
Three threaders and two threading business owners joined with the Institute for Justice and sued TDLR in 2009, arguing that the Texas Constitution prohibits useless and expensive training requirements that do nothing to protect the public.
“Today’s decision is crystal clear: The government can’t make you do useless things to keep your job,” said lead attorney Wesley Hottot of the Institute for Justice. “The Texas Constitution protects everyone’s right to pursue the occupation of their choice without unreasonable government interference. State officials can’t just meddle with people’s ability to go to work and support their families. Regulations must have reasons.”
“I am overjoyed,” said Ash Patel, a plaintiff in the case and the owner of an eyebrow threading business that was forced to close its doors. “I will immediately get my business back up and running. This ruling will benefit not just threaders but our customers, too, because there will be more threading businesses in Texas and because threading will cost less.”
“Texas has long been a beacon for innovation and entrepreneurship,” Hottot added. “The Supreme Court’s decision shows the vital role that courts play in protecting and sustaining that proud heritage.”
“All I ever wanted was a fair chance to pursue my American Dream,” said Ash Patel. “And now I can.”