Lawsuit challenges Louisiana’s training mandate for hair braiding
A lawsuit alleges that Louisiana imposes onerous and unconstitutional permit requirements on people who braid hair for a living.
The petition was filed last Thursday in Baton Rouge by three practitioners of natural hair braiding techniques practiced widely in African-American communities.
The lawsuit claims it is difficult to comply with Louisiana’s requirement for 500 hours of training, because few cosmetology schools offer the course and the state doesn’t appear to offer the required exam.
"The training doesn't insure that you're competent in braiding. In fact the braiders usually learn how to braid as kids," said Institute for Justice Attorney Jamie Cavanaugh. "In Mississippi there are over 2600 active hair braiders, and in Louisiana we know that there are only 19 licensed hairbraiders right now."
Louisiana’s cosmetology board is the defendant in the state court lawsuit filed by the Institute for Justice. Cosmetologists believe there is more to these styles beyond braiding.
"You have to analyze the scalp and hair to know the customer can take the service that they want to achieve," said Elnora Clayton, a certified cosmetologist and salon owner. "Like kids that are very small, their hair follicles are not fully developed, so if you go in and braid them and yank them out you could damage those hair follicles for life and the hair doesn't grow back. "
The institute, a Virginia-based organization, has challenged hair braiding requirements in other states, including Mississippi.
In the past, the organization also has pursued challenges of Louisiana licensing requirements for florists and requirements for practitioners of cosmetic eyebrow threading.