FILE - Hair stylist shampooing, salon, occupational licensing

A lawsuit filed against the Minnesota Board of Cosmetologist Examiners by makeup artists claims the occupational licensing rules on makeup artists and hairstylists violate the Equal Protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Melanie Rivers, one of the plaintiffs, said she borrowed $40,000 in student loans to earn her cosmetologist license in 2012.

About 1,550 hours of class credits later, she faces 2,700 more hours working in a salon to earn a salon manager license before she can legally style hair and apply makeup at special events, the lawsuit states, due to rules declared in December.

If a hair and makeup artist wants to work onsite at a wedding, they must pass a total of four exams and complete 4,250 hours of training, of which 66 percent are “largely irrelevant” to actual practice, the lawsuit claims.

The laws give license exemptions for hair and makeup artists for film, over-the-counter sales, and photography, but not for “special event” licenses required for events like weddings.

The lawsuit states the exemptions distinguishing onsite weddings and photography are “manifestly arbitrary and fanciful.”

“There is no natural and reasonable basis” to license onsite makeup and hair services for brides but not bridal photoshoots, the lawsuit says, and the broad distinctions are “depriving them of their constitutional right to economic liberty,” along with about 1,000 other hair and makeup artists.

“I’ve worked very hard to build my business and provide the best service to my clients,” Rivers said in a statement. “This is an amazing industry that creates so many opportunities, but I feel like right now I’m being limited for no good reason.”

Meagan Forbes, a legislative counsel for The Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning nonprofit law firm, told The Center Square these regulations lock people who want to work out of the workforce without having to assume crushing student loan debt.

Attorneys V. John Ella and David Asp wrote that the state’s onerous regulations violate their plaintiffs’ due process rights and the “right to pursue a chosen livelihood and operate a lawful business without arbitrary and unreasonable governmental interference.”

The cosmetology board has ordered about 1,000 makeup artists to cease and desist and threatened $3,000 fines and criminal charges.

One of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, Cristina Ziemer, has offered hair and makeup services at special events for more than 12 years. Weddings generated about 90 percent of her income, she said in a statement, before the regulations.

Sen. Karin Housely, R-St. Mary's Point, filed SF 2898 that would fully exempt styling hair and applying makeup from licensing laws.

The Minnesota Board of Cosmetologist Examiners didn't respond to requests for comment.

“I spent years building my business. I love what I do and feel like a piece of me would be missing if I have to shut down,” Ziemer said in a statement. “I am fighting to protect my business and the right of all Minnesotans to earn a living doing what they love.”

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on and Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.