Dropout Says Tennessee Won’t Let Him Cut Hair

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CN) – A Tennessee man whose dream is to become a barber claims he is being held back by lawmakers who imposed a requirement that doesn’t apply to them: a high school education.

Elias Zarate filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Davidson County Chancery Court against the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners and its members, arguing the 2015 law is an “arbitrary and needless requirement.”

Zarate, represented by Braden Boucek with the Beacon Center of Tennessee, says he was forced to drop out of high school to care for his younger brother and sister after his mom died and his dad left the family.

His dream job is barbering, according to the lawsuit, but his “dream was crushed” because of the state law that requires barbers to have a high school diploma or equivalent.

“This case presents a simple question: why do barbers need to graduate high school? Barbers basically cut hair. They do not need to understand algebra II or The Great Gatsby,” the complaint states. “The job market is cruel enough for Elias Zarate and people like him who never finished high school but want to work and make a better life for their family, without any state-imposed artificial restraint.”

Zarate says graduating high school “has nothing to do with barbering” and the “devastating law makes no sense.”

His complaint notes that many other jobs do not require a high school education, including emergency medical first responders and the lawmakers who passed the measure at issue.

“Any person who can be trusted to be an elected official or save a life in an emergency should be able to manage cutting, shaving and styling hair,” the lawsuit states.

Zarate’s attorney, Boucek, wrote in a blog post that “Tennessee should do away with silly roadblocks that do nothing but prevent good people from working a good job.”

“Americans can’t stand it when we enact silly laws that just hurt people, especially when good people just want to work and be left alone,” Boucek said.

The Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners is an entity within the state’s Department of Commerce and Insurance. A spokesman said the department does not comment on pending litigation.

Zarate asks for a speedy hearing and a declaration that the academic achievement requirement for barbers is unconstitutional.

“The American Dream should be open to all,” the complaint states. “By boarding it on behalf of others, the defendants continuously violate Elias’s economy liberty, one of the most precious rights he possesses as a citizen of the state of Tennessee and the United States.”

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