12:38pm

Thu August 9, 2012
Planet Money

It's Now Legal To Braid Hair In Utah Without A License

Earlier this year, we reported on the story of Jestina Clayton:

A few years ago, Jestina Clayton started a hair braiding business in her home in Centerville, Utah. The business let her stay home with her kids, and in good months, she made enough to pay for groceries. She even put an ad on a local website. Then one day she got an email from a stranger who had seen the ad.

"It is illegal in the state of Utah to do any form of extensions without a valid cosmetology license," the e-mail read. "Please delete your ad, or you will be reported."

To get a license, Jestina would have to spend more than a year in cosmetology school. Tuition would cost $16,000 dollars or more.

Jestina shut down her business — and went on to sue the state of Utah. Cosmetologists, and the state, argued that allowing Jestina to braid hair without a license would endanger public health.

Yesterday, a federal judge ruled in Jestina's favor. He wrote, in part:

The State does not know which schools, if any, teach African hair braiding; how many hours, if any, of African hair braiding instruction are available at those unknown schools; or whether the unknown number of hours of instruction at those unknown schools are mandatory or elective. ...

Utah's cosmetology/barbering licensing scheme is so disconnected from the practice of African hairbraiding, much less from whatever minimal threats to public health and safety are connected to braiding, that to premise Jestina's right to earn a living by braiding hair on that scheme is wholly irrational and a violation of her constitutionally protected rights.

I talked to Jestina on the phone this morning. "I'm still grinning from ear to ear," she told me. She hopes to re-launch her braiding business in time for the start of school this fall.

For More: Read our story on Jestina from earlier this year.

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