NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Texas Court Rules against Occupational Licensing Requirement

January 14, 2015

A federal court in Texas has ruled in favor of a small African hair braiding business, a win for entrepreneurs against licensing restrictions and unreasonable regulations. States across the country have what are known as "occupational licensing" laws, requiring would-be entrepreneurs and business people to take classes, pass tests and meet other requirements in order to be "licensed" to practice a particular occupation.  Thirty-nine states require hair braiders to have a state hair braiding license, and getting the license can be expensive -- according to Patrik Jonsson at the Christian Science Monitor, while some states just require a few hours of instruction time, others require up to 2,100.

This particular case involved Isis Brantley, a woman who has spent more than 30 years braiding hair in Dallas, Texas. She has a hair braiding license for her business. Johnson reports that for the last two decades, Brantley has taught students how to braid hair. Unfortunately, her business space did not meet the requirements necessary to be a "barber school" under Texas law, and the state told her she had to meet the requirements or stop teaching braiding.

What does it take to become a licensed barber school? Barbers must comply with a number of requirements concerning their facilities, including:

  • Having at least 10 student workstations with reclining chairs.
  • Installing a sink behind every two workstations, so that there are at least five sinks.
  • Having at least 2,000 square feet of floor space.

What would that have meant for Brantley? She said complying with the regulation would have cost $25,000, in addition to relocating to a new studio and paying higher rent for a much bigger space. Not only were the regulations expensive, but they didn't make any sense for a business that was not a traditional hair salon -- African hair braiding does not cut, wash or chemically treat hair. In fact, the Court said that under Texas law, it would be illegal for the hair braiders to wash hair.

Brantley took her case to court, and a federal district judge agreed with her, finding no "rational connection" between the regulations and Brantley's capacity to teach hair braiding. recently reported on a similar situation taking place in Nevada, where the state's Cosmetology Board threatened to shut down a makeup instruction business. Why? Being a makeup artist requires no license, but one must be a licensed cosmetology school in Nevada to teach makeup application. The state told the business owners that, among other things, they would need to move to a larger facility with 5,000 square feet of space, add 10 shampoo sinks and install manicure and pedicure equipment -- costing $75,000. Plus, the state told her she needed 700 hours of training in subjects having nothing to do with being a makeup artist, such as giving facials or coloring hair.

These two situations are hardly unique. The NCPA has reported on occupational licensing before, noting that as of 2006, 29 percent of workers were in jobs that required a license.

The Reason Foundation has estimated that occupational licensing costs the American economy between $34.8 and $41.7 billion annually and decreases the job growth rate by 20 percent. 

Source: Patrik Jonsson, "Can Texas force hair-braiders to jump through hoops? Nope, says judge," Christian Science Monitor, January 9, 2015. 


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