BOISE, Idaho—Hair braiders in Idaho are now free to earn an honest living without unnecessary red tape and useless training. Under a new bill signed into law on Monday, March 28, by Gov. Brad Little, braiders are exempted from Idaho’s cosmetology licensing laws. In response, the Institute for Justice (IJ) and hair braiders Tedy Okech, Charlotte Amoussou and Sonia Ekemon will work with the state to file a stipulated dismissal of their lawsuit challenging Idaho’s law requiring that African-style hair braiders get a cosmetology license.
“I am so excited and grateful to hear about the change Idaho is making going forward,” said Tedy Okech. “It’s a huge weight off the shoulders of Idahoan braiders to know we can now freely expand our businesses and contribute to the economy.”
Earlier this month, IJ filed a federal lawsuit challenging state requirements that forced braiders to complete 1,600 hours of training at a cosmetology school—which can cost $20,000 or more—and complete both a written and a practical exam to obtain a cosmetology license. These burdensome requirements prevented braiders like Tedy, Charlotte and Sonia from legally practicing their occupation and earning an honest living in the state. Immediately following IJ’s lawsuit, Idaho’s legislature unanimously passed HB 762—which uses language from IJ’s model braiding bill—to exempt braiders from cosmetology licensing requirements. The new law went into effect immediately upon being signed.
“This is a major victory for hair braiders in Idaho,” said IJ Attorney Caroline Grace Brothers. “The government has no business licensing something as safe and common as hair braiding. With this reform, Idaho has stepped out of the way of entrepreneurs looking to start or grow braiding businesses across the state.”
This victory advances IJ’s national Braiding Freedom Initiative, which seeks to protect braiders’ right to pursue their calling free from unnecessary licensing laws. Since IJ launched this Initiative in 2014, at least 21 states have eliminated licensing requirements of any kind for African-style braiders. Now, only four states have not expressly exempted braiders from needing a cosmetology license: Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming.
“Braiders deserve economic liberty in all fifty states and we’ll keep standing up for natural braiders until braiding freedom is a reality nationwide,” said IJ Senior Attorney Dan Alban. “No one should have to hire a lawyer or a lobbyist just to earn an honest living.”
Institute for Justice attorneys Caroline Grace Brothers and Dan Alban were assisted in this case by Idaho attorney Edward Dindinger of Runft Dindinger Kohler, PLLC.