Missouri Hair Braiders Sue Over Regulations
ST. LOUIS - Two St. Louis African hair braiders are challenging Missouri's licensing regulations. Plaintiffs Ndioba "Joba" Niang and Tameka Stigers, provide African-style hair braiding as their means of livelihood. The state currently does not allow the practice without a cosmetology license.
Obtaining a license costs $10,000 - $20,000 and requires at least 15,000 hours of training or 3,000 hours through apprenticeship. The license must also be renewed every two years. That is more hours of training than required for an emergency medical technician in Missouri.
Leading attorney for the women, Dan Alban, said, "Not only is the training very time consuming and expensive, it doesn't even include hair braiding training."
If caught providing the African-style hair braiding service for compensation, it is a misdemeanor and punishable by $300 fine and/or 15 days in jail. The Institute for Justice argues the government may only restrict braiders' rights to run their business if there is some "rational basis" for that restriction. To prove that rational basis, the government must give a reasonable connection between the restrictions in question and public health and safety.
The Institute for Justice's Braiding Freedom Initiative has won similar legal or legislative challenges in seven other states. Similar cases have recently been filed in Washington and Arkansas. Alban said he first dealt with the issue in 1991 and he has filed three cases Tuesday.
A spokesman for the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration said the department does not comment on litigation.