Eyebrow Threaders Beat Back Regulation in Texas

     AUSTIN (CN) – Texas’s licensing requirements for Cosmetology professionals are too burdensome when applied to eyebrow threaders, a divided state Supreme Court ruled.
     In an opinion released Friday, Justice Phil Johnson, writing on behalf of the 6-3 majority, held that the state’s requirement that commercial eyebrow threaders undergo 750 hours of training – little of which is devoted to actual eyebrow threading – placed such an undue burden on these professionals and was therefore, unconstitutional.
     “In the case of the threaders, the large number of hours not arguably related to the actual practice of threading, the associated costs of those hours in out-of-pocket expenses, and the delayed employment opportunities while taking the hours, makes the number highly relevant to whether licensing requirements as a whole reach the level of being so burdensome that they are oppressive,” Johnson wrote.
     Eyebrow threading involves the plucking of eyebrow hair with a cotton thread. The practice is common in South Asian and Middle Eastern communities, and is such a growing practice in Texas that, in 2011, the Texas Legislature began regulating it under the state’s cosmetology laws and regulations, the opinion said.
     To get an esthetician license, which would be the minimum license professional eyebrow threaders would need to practice, prospective professionals had to complete a minimum 750 hours of instruction in a state-approved training program.
     Such programs could cost between $3,500 and $9,000, and practicing without a license could lead to fines as high as $5,000 a day, the opinion said.
     Ashish Patel and four other threaders sued the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation in December, 2009, following a visit to their business by state regulators who cited two employees for threading without a license.
     In their suit, the threaders argued the state’s regulations were unreasonable and violated their rights “to earn an honest living in the occupation of one’s choice free from unreasonable governmental interference,” the opinion said.
     The threaders argued the state’s requirements had no rational connection to their discipline; that eyebrow threading was not required to be on mandated state tests; that most schools only taught 25 hours of “superfluous hair removal” that did not include eyebrow threading; and that fewer than 10 of the 389 state-approved cosmetology schools taught threading techniques at all, the opinion said.
     The state argued that the threaders exaggerated the number of unrelated hours, but admitted that as many as 320 hours of the 750 required hours were not related to activities that threaders actually perform.
     Johnson wrote that, no matter the exact cost, the high number of training hours unrelated to eyebrow threading, combined with the business threaders would lose while attending such training, made the licensing rules not only unreasonable and harsh, but oppressive.
     Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, in a dissent, labeled the state’s regulations as “injudicious” when applied to eyebrow threading, but not tyrannical or arbitrary. He argued that threaders still learn important safety and sanitation practices at schools that do not teaching threading, and added that although few schools teach threading techniques, the state legislature could have concluded that more schools would add the practice as demand grew.
     Responding to the ruling in a written statement, Patel said “I am overjoyed. I will immediately get my business back up and running. The 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.”

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