• Swamp Watch

Plagued by lawsuits, Licensing Board Wants More in Fees

The State Board of Cosmetology has repeatedly been hit by lawsuits in recent years. Now, they want more money from licensees.

Over the years, the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology has worked diligently to block Louisianans from pursuing jobs in the cosmetology industry. From repeatedly killing efforts to deregulate hair braiders (for which they fine $5,000 for practicing without a license, and require 500 hours of training to be licensed), to shutting down a mobile salon serving assisted living patients in Bossier City, becoming the only state in the country to require stylists to learn how to cut textured hair, and seeking to create an "advanced esthetician" license requiring 250 hours of training, the State Board of Cosmetology could teach classes in how to kill opportunity in Louisiana.

For their excellence in stifling Louisianans seeking to make a living, the Board has been rewarded with repeated lawsuits.

In 2016, the Board was sued by New Orleans area eyebrow threaders over its overly burdensome requirements forcing threaders to obtain an esthetician license, requiring 750 hours of training at a cost of $10,000-$13,000. The lawsuit was filed after the Board went after a Metairie salon owner, forcing her to pay a $5,000 fine for employing unlicensed eyebrow threaders. In 2017, the Board, likely seeing the writing on the wall in the lawsuit, reduced restrictions for eyebrow threading, requiring a test and paying the Board $50 to receive a threading permit.

In 2017, the Cosmetology Board settled a federal lawsuit that alleged racial discrimination and harassment by the Board against Vietnamese owned nail salons. According to the plaintiffs in that case, Vietnamese-owned businesses paid at least 80% of fines to the Board, despite making up only 9% of salons regulated by the Board between 2011-2013. Later that same year, the Board asked the legislature for a 40% increase in their licensing fees. Records show that in 2017, the Board spent over $115,000 in legal fees.

The Institute for Justice currently has a lawsuit against the Board, on behalf of Louisiana hair braiders, for its overly burdensome requirements on those seeking to practice the craft of hair braiding. Despite the Board's effort to have the suit thrown out, a Judge ruled the suit should go forward in 2019. The Board could have avoided this lawsuit, but instead fought tooth and nail in 2017 and 2018 to kill efforts to repeal Louisiana's hair braiding license.

After failing in past years to get a license fee increase, the Board is back at the legislature this year, seeking a restructuring of its fees in HB 670. The bill covers nearly every fee assessed by the Board, seeking to hide increases by removing "nonresident" fees. For residents, the bill would increase the standard licensing fee by 40%, from $25 to $35, salon permits by 33%, from $30 to $40, inspection fees by 60%, from $25 to $40, among other fee changes. These fee increases will serve to create additional burdens on those licensed by the Cosmetology Board, and continues their tradition of working to put as many barriers as possible on those seeking to make a living in Louisiana.

For context, the Board currently operates under a nearly $2 million budget- not an insignificant amount of money for an unaccountable, unelected state board. The vast majority of their funding comes from the very license fees they are seeking to increase- $1.6 million from over 45,000 licenses issued in 2021. With just a $10 fee increase, that's nearly half a million in additional funds for the Board to use- and with its track record, that additional funding would likely go to new, innovative methods of killing the dreams of Louisianans who want to work in the cosmetology industry. That's not conjecture- according to records from 2014-2020, the Board has taken 1,050 enforcement actions against licensees. Of those 1,050 actions, only 29 dispositions were resolved in favor of the licensee, just 2.7% of all actions.

Sign up here to receive future stories direct to your inbox. You can also follow us on Facebook & Twitter.