After Two Year Court Battle, Beacon Wins Barber Lawsuit

August 11, 2020 4:20PM

The Beacon Center, representing Elias Zarate of Memphis, finally won its lawsuit against the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners. The judge ruled that it was constitutionally irrational for the government to require barbers to obtain a high school degree, especially when they don’t require one for cosmetologists, who perform essentially the same function.

Beacon Vice President of Legal Affairs Braden Boucek noted, “We are thrilled with the judge’s decision and are happy for Elias and his family. The government shouldn’t stand between Elias and the career he loved just because he didn’t graduate high school. If emergency personnel don’t need to graduate high school to restart the heart of a person who stopped breathing, then you can cut hair without a high school degree. Today’s ruling finally righted this injustice. After overcoming massive challenges throughout his life, Elias and other barbers who do not have a high school degree are finally able to go back to work. We also want to thank FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for bringing national attention to this case and Elias’ fight to earn a living.”

Chairman Pai, who addressed his interest in Elias’s case when he was a guest on Over-Caffeinated, was thrilled with this outcome. “Justice, at long last! Congratulations to Elias Zarate on winning his case against the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners, and the Beacon Center for its long-standing advocacy on his behalf.  A few years ago, I had the privilege of having lunch in Memphis with Elias and others unfairly denied a chance to work because of occupational licensing requirements for hairstylists in Tennessee.  You could see in their faces and hear in their words the frustration at not being able to do what they loved to do and help put food on the table for their families.  That frustration isn’t limited to hairstylists, or to Tennessee.  Despite good intentions (and sometimes less-than-good ones), occupational licensing schemes across the country prevent people from working and supporting their families and harm consumers who want the benefit of their work.  This case is a good example of that phenomenon, and it’s certainly not the only one.  I hope Elias’ victory catalyzes a larger, needed conversation about occupational licensing—a conversation aided by the work of the Beacon Center and other dedicated advocates.”

You can read about Elias’ case here.

You can read the judge’s full decision here.