Hair Braider Wins Fight Against Utah’s Hair-Braiding Requirements

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A mother of three wins her case against the state of Utah

A hair braider in Utah has won a federal lawsuit against the state over its licensing process for her hair braiding profession, arguing the state regulations violated her right to earn a living. Jestina Clayton, who braids hair to supplement her family’s income as her husband attends school, sued  Utah last year after she discovered it would be illegal to run a hair braiding business without a without acquiring a cosmetology license.

The state requires that anyone working with hair, including hair braiders, take approximately 2,000 hours of coursework for a cosmetology license. The state argues working with hair requires knowledge of sanitation and sterilization to protect public health.
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A federal judge ruled this week stating Utah’s requirement that Clayton get a cosmetology license to braid hair was “unconstitutional and invalid” because regulations are irrelevant to Clayton’s profession. “I’m excited. I can’t believe it,” Clayton said of the ruling. “You go in with the hope, but sometimes things don’t go your way.

U.S. District Judge David Sam in Salt Lake City, Utah, said the state couldn’t prove a cosmetology license for hair-braiding is needed to protect public health. He also added Utah has never investigated whether any health or safety threats are associated with the practice.

Utah attorney general’s spokesman, Paul Murphy, said Friday that lawyers are reviewing the case and have not decided whether or not they’ll appeal the judge’s ruling. The state acknowledged the curriculum and exam it requires for cosmetology license do not deal with hair-braiding. Clayton said she wouldn’t have minded taking classes to get a license, as long as they’re relevant to her work. “I would definitely do it, but that’s not what they were saying,” she said. “They were saying,Waste your time on something that you’ll never use.’”

Clayton, 30, learned how to braid her at the age of five in her West African home country of Sierra Leone.