Utah Hair Braider Cuts Back in Case Against State Regulators

A woman who used childhood skills learned in Africa to make money was shut down by state regulators, but she fought back and came out on top

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AP / Jim Urquhart, File

Jestina Clayton braids the hair of her daughter, Esther, 5, at her home in Centerville, Utah

Jestina Clayton, a refugee from her native Sierra Leone, moved to Centreville, Utah when she was 22 and began braiding hair at home while a student at Weber State University. At the time, she was told by state regulators that she didn’t need a cosmetology license if she wasn’t cutting hair or using chemicals, which her style of braiding does not require.

But in 2009, the state told her that she had to get a cosmetology license to continue her business, which requires 2,000 hours of school and about 18,000 in tuition, plus an exam, although Utah cosmetology schools don’t teach anything about African hair braiding. She protested to the state’s cosmetology board, saying that cosmetology, a vocation that involves chemical treatments and handling of skin and hair, was completely different than African hair braiding, an art that stretches back thousands of years. But her complaint was rejected and no legislator would amend the statute.

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So Clayton took her case to the Virginia-based Institute for Justice, which litigates civil liberties cases like hers and filed suit to fight against what the group called “the state’s anti-competitive cosmetology regulations.” Still lobbyist groups like the Professional Beauty Association drew a line in the sand, insisting that Clayton be forced to comply with state law.

“We encourage regulation,” Brad Masterson, a PBA spokesman, told the New York Times. “Why should everyone else who’s doing hair have to conform to requirements and not her?”

The state argued that classes that speak to sterilization and diseases of the skin and scalp and sanitary issues were germane to what she was doing, plus regulations are good for everybody and help insure the public good. But U.S. District Court Judge David Sam wasn’t buying it, citing a 1915 Supreme Court ruling that defends her right to make an income while working from home. He said that the state was squeezing two different occupations into one mold.

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“Most of the cosmetology curriculum is irrelevant to hair braiding. Even the relevant parts are at best, minimally relevant,” Sam said in his decision. He said that she wasn’t trying to change the state’s regulatory laws, but rather questioning their relation to her skill, which she learned as a child in Africa.

“I am so grateful.  It has been a long time that I’ve been fighting with Utah just so that I could braid hair.  I am relieved that the judge saw the facts of my situation and protected the right to earn a living when the other branches of government did not,” Clayton said in a statement.  “I am looking forward to getting back to work and to my clients who had been so supportive of my fight.”

13 comments
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Estella Cohen
Estella Cohen

Do you know they tried to do the same thing in N.Y. in the  early'70's?

It's also how Asians cornered the market on applying artificial nails in

shops that Black women had been doing in their homes for years.Glad she

won. The only reason Asians haven't cornered the braiding market is

because they can't braid Black hair,or they would.

Matthew Robinson
Matthew Robinson

Do you know they tried to do the same thing in N.Y. in the  early'70's? It's also how Asians cornered the market on applying artificial nails in shops that Black women had been doing in their homes for years.Glad she won. The only reason Asians haven't cornered the braiding market is because they can't braid Black hair,or they would.

jheckers
jheckers

Having served on a mental health board in CO, I can tell you that most of these regulations are "turf" things. Those with certain training want to keep anything to do with that area to themselves and destroy competition. In psychology, it is the Licensed Clinical Psychologists, even though studies have shown that psychotherapists with different training have outcomes that are just a good as Clinical Psychologists have. In medicine, the M.D.s want to keep all competition for health and wellness under their thumb, and so on. It's about anti-competitiveness, NOT public safety, regardless of what they tell you.

Sherry McClellan
Sherry McClellan

Now if someone will come to the aid of the boy with handicapped parents, who saved and bought a hotdog cart, to use for making money to assist his family...only to have the existing merchants and city regulations, "protecting" their interests, against competition by encroaching vendors...allegedly because he didn't pay for ppty taxes, or some such for the city to clean up the area...hogwash.  This practice is going on, in other communities, everywhere....squashing any competitive, new, or entrepreneural, indeavors and home businesses, with unreasonable regulations; to "protect existing businesses".  What happened to the freedom to "pursue happiness"...the "american dream"...etc.  Nepotism runs rampant, in many places, even up to and including, state level legislation, "protecting" old line family interests against those who'd come in and make any money that they seem to feel should "rightfully" be kept in the family, so to speak..actually, quite literally.  It prevents such things as old fashioned bake sales, lemonade stands, even crocheting doilies, by little old ladies for selling at craft sales, for making Christmas money, or even daily food; but, may be breaking the law, subject to fine and prison time...and this is the "American Way"?  Not to most people's way of thinking.  Yet, these same people are the ones who resist helping those people out, who they deny the right to make money, unless they go into a full-fledged business, licenses, tax numbers, insurance, etc...requiring so much startup capitol, it's more than these folks are likely to be able to make in a yr or more.  These are true statements that most people have no clue of; until it comes time to make a few bucks to feed themselve or their families..or pay rent..and find that individual efforts to do so, is breaking the law and subject to steep punishment.  Absurd and insane and another example of Greed...pure and simple!

swift2010
swift2010

well done to the Black woman 

Al Mattei
Al Mattei

Oh, those wacky white people in Utah. Always showing sensitivity to those different from them.

Shawn Dolen
Shawn Dolen

No, it's an example of crony crapitalism.  A mainstay of all liberal governments.   ...or you can argue it's simply stupidity.  I bet those durn racists in Utah can't stand someone like Mia Love either.  

While we don't have a lot of black people in Utah, we certainly aren't simply a bunch of "white people" either.  

...but leave it to a liberal to project racism onto everything.  

Miranda
Miranda

I wonder who's been braiding Mia Love's hair.

LilyvSelena
LilyvSelena

Raymond explained I'm stunned that a single mom able to make $9860 in 1 month on the network. did you look at this(Click on menu Home)

Mike Izni
Mike Izni

Happy for Jestina. The judge made the right decision, in my opinion.