Lawsuit challenges TN law requiring barbers to have high school diploma

Press release from Beacon Center of Tennessee

NASHVILLE –  The Beacon Center recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of aspiring Memphis barber Elias Zarate based on the unconstitutional law that requires barbers to have a high school degree as a prerequisite to getting a barber’s license. The Beacon Center has filed suit against the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barbers Examiners and its members in order to eliminate this unfair regulation.

Braden Boucek, Director of Litigation for the Beacon Center said, “Elias Zarate is the personification of the American Dream. Despite overcoming so many obstacles, including having to raise and financially support his younger siblings when his mom passed away and dad left, the state has decided that he cannot be a barber just because he doesn’t have a high school degree. Elias had to drop out of school to take care of his family and the state of Tennessee is punishing him for it. We asked the state legislature to fix this last session, but because they failed to act, we are forced to take it to court so that good, hard-working people like Elias can earn an honest living.”

Boucek went on to note, “Tennessee does not require Emergency Medical Responders or even cosmetologists who also cut and style hair to have a high school degree. Anybody who can perform lifesaving interventions should be able to cut hair. Nothing you learn in high school has anything to do with barbering in the first place. This is an arbitrary law that hurts people, and yet another example of licensing having absolutely nothing to do with health and safety, but rather a way to restrict competition. We’re fighting for Elias to eliminate this senseless law.”

Note: More on the case from Beacon Center HERE. Excerpt from a WTVF TV report:

It is unclear exactly why the law was initially passed, however, opponents tried to get it repealed in the last legislative session but failed.

“The only other discussion that they had about it was that they were trying encourage people to stay in high school in which several lawmakers pointed out that you didn’t need a diploma to run for governor, senator, or representative. So in other words, the very people who are passing the law did not have to have high school diplomas,” Boucek told NewsChannel 5.

Monty Weathers of Monty’s Barber Shop in downtown Nashville agreed that it seemed unfair.

“I really don’t think a high school diploma is necessary to be a barber,” Weathers said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to change something like that.”

Meanwhile, the owner of Collins & Co. Barber Shop told NewsChannel 5 he sees the benefit of requiring a high school diploma since what they do is “more than just cutting hair.”

A spokesperson for TDCI said the department could not comment about ongoing litigation.

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