Threading Liberation Day in Kansas

Threading Liberation Day in Kansas

The state kills a nutty licensing rule after an immigrant sues.

The Editorial Board | July 19, 2022 8:58

Talk about a good hair day: On July 1 Kansas liberated salon workers from one of its dumbest occupational licensing requirements.

Threading, as it’s known, involves using a thin string to shape brows and pluck unwanted facial hair. The safety risks are minimal, as the practice involves no sharp instruments, hot wax or harsh chemicals. But until recently Kansas law required professional threaders to be licensed estheticians.

That meant aspiring threaders had to complete 1,000 hours of training and practice, most of it spent learning something other than hair removal. The cost of esthetics schooling sometimes exceeds $10,000 in Kansas, and not all schools teach threading. Aspirants also had to pass written and practical exams that cost a total of $150. It was a misdemeanor to thread without a license or hire an unlicensed threader, and penalties included a $1,000 fine.

These requirements were prohibitive for Jyotsna Biscuitwala, a 64-year-old Indian immigrant and Kansas resident who wanted to work in two salons owned by her son and his wife. Ms. Biscuitwala had some 30 years of threading experience, but neither esthetics classes nor exams are offered in her native language of Gujarati.

Ms. Biscuitwala and her family sued the state and the Kansas State Board of Cosmetology and its members in 2020 with help from the Kansas Justice Institute, a public-interest litigation firm. They argued that the state’s licensing regime “unreasonably, arbitrarily, and unfairly limits threading” and “prevents threaders from earning honest livings, prevents expansion of businesses, and causes great and irreparable harm.”

The lawsuit caught the attention of Kansas lawmakers, who learned that the licensing rule hurt salons and aspiring threaders. Threading accounts for about 95% of the business at Perfect Brow Bar in Topeka and Wichita, but manager Arif Karowalia testified about the shortage of licensed threaders: “It is nearly impossible to comply with the current law, but if we do not comply, our business faces consequences that we cannot afford to address.”

Kansas lawmakers passed a bill this spring exempting threaders from the licensing requirements. The law took effect this month, and Ms. Biscuitwala and her family dropped their lawsuit. This formidable threader prunes overgrown regulations, too.