You Need 300 Hours Of Training And A License To Shampoo Hair?

Occupational licensure is so damaging to the upward mobility of poor people and does so little to protect the public that even the Obama administration, with its reflexive pro-government inclinations, has criticized it. (See my February 2015 Forbes piece on that.)

Unnecessary and anti-competitive licensing rules have been repeatedly challenged in court, and often struck down as a violation of either state law or the U.S. Constitution. The Institute for Justice has been particularly effective in protecting the liberty of people who just want a chance to succeed on their own, by persuading courts to invalidate ridiculous licensing regulations.

A new case in Tennessee raises these issues. In Pritchard v. Board of Cosmetology, the plaintiff is Tammy Pritchard, a woman who would like to earn some additional money working in a hair salon owned by a friend. The salon specializes in African hair braiding and what she wants to do is shampoo customers’ hair.

But after doing that for a few months, Tammy heard from officials at the state Cosmetology Board, informing her that she could not continue washing hair because she lacks a governmental license to do so. Under Board of Cosmetology regulations, an individual “must complete not less than 300 hours of instruction on the theory and practice of shampooing” at an approved school. That instruction includes how to answer the phone, order products, information about the composition of shampoos, and on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rules governing hair salons.

So there are one or more “theories” about shampooing? Good grief.

The state will of course contend that these training regulations are just meant to protect the public. Imagine the horrible things that could happen to a salon patron if her shampoo was done by someone like Tammy, who had been doing her own shampooing all her life but had never studied for 300 hours in a state approved cosmetology school.

Pritchard, a police officer, cannot afford all that expense and has had to stop doing the additional work she wants to do. Hers is a depressingly common story – government regulations getting in the way of an ambitious person.

Read more of this Forbes op-ed by George Leef by clicking here.

Photo: Flickr/thejbird