Three Idaho entrepreneurs and the Institute for Justice (IJ) held a press conference on the steps of the Idaho Capitol Building Tuesday to announce their lawsuit challenging existing requirements for braiding licenses.

Tedy Okech, Charlotte Amoussou and Sonia Ekemon have a combined 60 years of experience practicing African-style hair braiding, but under the current state law, they are unable to charge for their services.

Idaho requires braiders to become licensed cosmetologists before they are able to braid hair for a living. The prerequisite for obtaining a license includes 1,600 hours of training at a cosmetology school and completing both a written and a practical exam.

The lawsuit argues that most of that training is irrelevant for professional hair braiders. Idaho law does not require cosmetology schools to teach students African-style braiding techniques, and only 2 out of 110 questions on the written exam are related to braiding, with the practical exam not covering braiding at all, according to the lawsuit.

Cosmetology school can also be quite expensive and range from a couple thousand dollars up to $20,000 or more.

Since IJ filed its first lawsuit in 1991 challenging Washington, D.C.’s cosmetology license requirement for braiders, 31 states have eliminated their licensing requirements for African-style braiders.

Idaho is one of just five states in the country that still require braiders to obtain a cosmetology license.

According to a report from Beauty School Debt and Drop-Outs, the average Idaho beauty school attendee takes out $7,000 in student loans, with only half of those students graduating on time.

The lawsuit alleges that requiring braiders to get a license in an unrelated profession is unconstitutional, as it infringes on the right to earn an honest living, and that the Constitution does not allow the government to impose onerous licensing requirements on something as “safe and common as braiding hair”.

The case will be filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho against the members of the Idaho Barber and Cosmetology Services Licensing Board.