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Louisiana’s Licensing Laws Nearly Destroyed This Woman’s Eyebrow Threading Business. Now She’s Fighting Back.

State requires 750 hours of classes on unrelated skills.


Institute for JusticeInstitute for JusticeWhen Lata Jagtiani talks about how the government tossed her out of business, you can almost see her shaking her head in a mix of confusion and frustration.

"I don't understand. I was making money, my customers were happy, my employees were happy," she says. "We weren't doing anything wrong."

But in the eyes of the Louisiana state government, Jagtiani was doing something wrong. As the owner of an eyebrow threading business called The Threading Studio and Spa, Jagtiani employed workers who hadn't been licensed by the state to practice the trade. Her business—operated out of a kiosk in the Lakeside Mall mall in the suburbs of New Orleans—didn't have access to hot and cold running water.

Eyebrow threading, it should be noted, doesn't require running water.

The state does, though, because it applies the same regulatory standards to eyebrow threading that it does to full service salons and spas. It does the same with regard to licensing, requiring a full aesthetician license before an individual can legally thread eyebrows. Obtaining that license requires 750 hours of classes in unrelated skills like applying makeup and styling hair—but not one class in threading.

Threading is a traditional South Asian practice in which a cotton thread is used to pluck unwanted hair from the face. Jagtiani learned how to do it then when she was 14-years-old, before immigrating to the United States from India. After seeing the popularity of eyebrow threading in New York, she decided to open her own threading business in 2012 after moving to Louisiana.

For 10 dollars and five minutes of your time, you could grab a seat at Jagtiani's kiosk and have one of her employees shape your brows without the pain of wax or the difficulty of shaving.

Every six to eight months, Jagtiani says, the state inspectors would visit and issue a warning because she was operating without running water and without proper licenses.

Last year, things got more serious when Jagtiani received a fine of $5,000 and was forced to move out of her location in the mall. She has now relocated to a strip mall nearby, which has the requisite supply of tap water but she says it's more difficult to attract as many customers in the new location.

"People said to me 'don't move, don't move,' and I had to tell them 'it's not my decision, the state board, they are making me move,'" Jagtiani said in an interview last week.

She also had to fire two employees, Ushaben Chudasama and Panna Shah, earlier this year, after the state Board of Cosmetology, which enforces the licensing rules, caught them working without a license.

On Tuesday, Jagtiani, Chudasama and Shah filed a lawsuit against the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology, challenging the legitimacy of the licensing laws that cost them their jobs and jeopardized the future of Jagtiani's business.

The three plaintiffs are being aided by the Institute for Justice, a national libertarian law firm that last year scored a victory over a similar eyebrow threading licensing law in Texas.

The lawsuit was filed in the state court for the East Baton Rouge Parish.

Meagan Forbes, the lead attorney on the case for IJ, says the restrictive licensing law isn'tviolates part of the Louisiana state constitution protecting individual's right to earn a living. Jagtiani's business does not represent a threat to the health or safety of her customers, Forbes said in an interview last week, and therefore the state has no authority to shut her down.

Steve Young, executive director of the Louisiana Board of Cosmetology, could not comment Monday on the lawsuit, which he had not seen. He said the licensing requirements were necessary to protect the public's health and safety.

"We're not picking on anyone," he says. "You have to follow the law. You can't take a specific license and pick out one part of it."

Asked if there was evidence of people being endangered by unlicensed beauticians in Louisiana, Young said they weren't "because we have a licensed and educated population."

"Were it not so, we would have disease on every corner," he says.

Other requirements, like the mandatory supply of running water, are necessary to ensure an sanitary environment. Inspectors are told to check for proper licensing and to do thorough checks for cleanliness at salons and spas, he said.

Jagtiani understands why the state has an interest in licensing workers to ensure customers' health and safety, she says, but doesn't understand why the licensing process is so onerous. A few weeks of training is all it takes to learn how to thread eyebrows—and she should know, since she's had to train her licensed employees how to do it, because the cosmetology schools don't.

Chudasama and Shah each have more than 25 years of experience with threading. Despite their lack of a license, there's no doubt they know what they are doing. Jagtiani said repeat customers would often ask for them by name.

If her business was unsafe or unclean, would there even be repeat customers?

"Licensing is a real problem in Louisiana," says Forbes. "More often than not, these rules exist to protect industry insiders and existing businesses from competition."

The Institute for Justice has fought Louisiana over licensing rules for florists and casket-makers. The state is the eighth most onerously licensed state, according to the organization's 2012 rankings.

Getting an aesthetician license in Louisiana requires 750 hours of classwork at a cosmetology school and can cost as much as $13,000. Students have to pass three exams—two written and one practical exam—before being licensed.

"It's too many hours, and they don't even teach threading," says Jagtiani. She says sheinitially took about 50 hours of classes in an attempt to get licensed, but stopped because she couldn't take that much time off from her business to learn skills she never planned to use.

The end result is that anyone who goes through the process to get licensed won't know how to thread, while anyone who does know how to thread—most likely because they, like Jagtiani, Chudasama and Shah, learned as part of a family or cultural heritage—has to go through and expensive, time consuming and pointless training process to be licensed.

The Texas Supreme Court last year struck down a similar licensing scheme, in a case brought by IJ on behalf of Ash Patel, a plaintiff in the case and the owner of an eyebrow threading business that was forced to close its doors.

Like in Louisiana, Texas required 750 hours of training and a full cosmetology license before anyone could legally thread eyebrows. Writing for the majority in the 6-3 ruling, Justice Phil Johnson said that requirement was "not just unreasonable or harsh, but it is so oppressive that it violates" the Texas constitution's protections of individuals' right to earn a living.

A concurring opinion, filed by Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, might be the most libertarian legal opinion ever written.

"This case is fundamentally about the American Dream and the unalienable human right to pursue happiness without curtsying to government on bended knee," Willett wrote. "It is about whether government can connive with rent-seeking factions to ration liberty unrestrained, and whether judges must submissively uphold even the most risible encroachments."

The three plaintiffs in Louisiana are asking those questions, based on rights also enshrined in their state's constitution.

Since losing their jobs at Jagtiani's threading salon, Chudasama and Shah are now working multiple part-time jobs to support their families. Both came to America from India seeking a better life, says Forbes, and Chudasama has four kids she's trying to put through school, a goal that's become more difficult since she lost her threading job, which allowed her to make money and remain connected her heretage.

"I want to build this business," Jagtiani said. "And I'd like to continue to run the business for the sake of my employees, for my customers and for my family."

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  • ||

    I used to be a beautiful woman before I went to an unlicensed eyebrow threader, and now I'm an ugly man.

  • ||

    *pats Gojira gently on the shoulder before taking a big step back*

  • ||

    Also, never forget.

  • ||

    So you're telling me that if I corner the market in Lotrimin, I'ma get rich, bitch?

  • ||

    To be fair, most of the commenters on the linked article are giving the author the business. Even foaming at the mouth progs found the headline and article to be ridiculous.

  • Hugh Akston||

    It's not usually their mouths that progs foam from.

  • ||

    I can't watch that here at work.

    Thanks for throwing your non-firewalled privilege in my face, you fucking fascist.

  • Bra Ket||

    But, warts and pink-eye!

    I like how they require training and licensing, but then don't even bother to require anything specific to the practice. "Don't stick your finger in the customer's eye. Any questions?"

  • perlchpr||

    Wow, that was some impressively hysterical pants shitting there.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Asked if there was evidence of people being endangered by unlicensed beauticians in Louisiana, Young said they weren't "because we have a licensed and educated population."

    "Were it not so, we would have disease on every corner," he says.

    The Spanish Flu pandemic killed more than 50 million people. Do you really want to run the risk of getting your eyebrows threaded by an unlicensed beautician?

  • Doctor Whom||

    +1 anti-tiger amulet

  • Nick W B||

    I agree stupid licensing rules are stupid and hurt the economy, put small businesses out of business, cost jobs, and do all sorts of other stupid things. Did I mention they were stupid?

    But I have trouble thinking about that in this case, because WTF is eyebrow threading? Why would someone do that?

  • $park¥ is totally a Swifty||

    Why would someone have jelly bags surgically implanted in their tits?
    Why would someone have cartilage shaved off their nose?
    Why would someone use hot wax to rip out their pubic hair?
    Why would someone use aerosol spray hair to cover a bald spot?
    Why would someone inject poison into their face to eliminate wrinkles?

    These are just some of the secrets man was not meant to know.

  • DiegoF||

    Mankind's Secrets Revealed!

    (1) so they look more awesome
    (2) so it looks more awesome
    (3) so it looks more awesome
    (4) fuck if I know. Everyone knows you put that shit on the front hairline like my man Carlos Boozer
    (5) so you look more awesome

  • ||

    Yeah, that shit is bogus. I simply drink beer until I am so handsome and witty no one can resist me.

  • Bra Ket||

    I don't think it takes a lot of sophistication or cultural indoctrination to imagine the value of the first one.

  • Pompey (91% LOLLOLZ)||

    But I have trouble thinking about that in this case, because WTF is eyebrow threading? Why would someone do regulate that?

    FTFY

  • commodious peals one off||

    It's not as bizarre as it sounds (at first I thought it involved needles). After helping remodel a salon that featured threading, I have to admit, it's pretty ingenious. The beautician takes a length of thread, double it up around her fingertips, and vigorously runs it over the offending hairs, plucking them out all at once without causing much (or any) pain. The process takes a few minutes and seems to sculpt the eyebrow as well or better than plucking. I assume, anyway, since the parlor did steady business the entire time I worked there.

  • DiegoF||

    Aww. I was hoping it would be the technique used to make those fly 90s style lines in your eyebrow.

  • Rhywun||

    90s style? I'm seeing that shit more than ever. It's the perfect addition when your tatt/'do combo already screams douchebag and you want to kick it up a notch.

  • Rhywun||

    Until I saw the picture linked in the Slate article above 2 minutes ago, I actually thought it involved somehow decoratively tying thread in there and always wondered how come I never saw anyone walking around like that.

  • LarryWilson||

    I dunno what she was thinking.

    For about half that amount of training, she could become certified as a police officer in Louisiana.

    Yep, 360 hours is all that is needed.

    Nothing wrong with that.

    At all.

  • DiegoF||

    In NYC they get much more than that but I'd bet we have it all over the Bayou brothers in blue when it comes to shooting incompetence. Up here no one ever learned to shoot unless they had a combat job before joining the force.

  • OldMexican sine qua non||

    "We're not picking on anyone," he says. "You have to follow the law[...]"


    "We should be a nation of laws!"

    Who talks like that?

    Oh, yes: Trumpistas.

  • Domina Elle||

    Trumpinistas

  • IceTrey||

    Mr. Young wouldn't having them take a simple hygiene class save your state from disease on every corner?

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Without licencing what will keep the poor and minorities in check down south?

    Related to that, are licencing law worse in the south -- neo-Jim Crow shenanigans?

  • amicusets||

    I don't get any of these dang licenses. Why, if I can pass the BAR without it, do I have to go to law school? Same with medicine. Why doesn't the Guv'mnt think customers should bear any burden for the choices they make?

  • quantumFog||

    "We're not picking on anyone," he says. "You have to follow the law. You can't take a specific license and pick out one part of it."

    Um, so you actually acknowledge the law is flawed, stupid and arbitrary. Yet you blatantly abdicate reason simply because applying a one-size-fits-all mentality is easier than actual thinking.

    Wow.

  • Domina Elle||

    Yeah I'm still waiting on Nevada and its licensing board to prove its legal brothels 'protect the public' of Nevada (or anyone who patronizes or works at brothels). There hasn't been any mechanism created to do so. We are just supposed to accept that it's true. One thing is for certain- the state gets its pound of flesh from the brothel workers and the MANY workers and clients who get busted for engaging in consensual sexual commerce outside of brothels- seeing how Nevada is one of the top 3 states for prostitution arrests despite it being the only state with legal prostitution. The state just wants its pound of flesh and to control our labor. The excuse is always going to be that they are protecting the public.

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