Senator seeks to hold state cosmetology board accountable for past debacles

The Board of Cosmetology is currently being audited by the Office of the Legislative Auditor "in response to concerns about a wide range of issues."

Salon employees. Minnesota Board of Cosmetology/Facebook

A Minnesota senator presented a bill Monday that would disband the Board of Cosmetology and transfer control over the industry to the Department of Health.

Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, said the Board of Cosmetology has been accused of gross mismanagement and involved in two civil rights lawsuits in past years.

Her bill, S.F. 691, would transfer the Board of Cosmetology’s jurisdiction over licensing requirements to the Department of Health. The states of Vermont and Colorado have both decided to move licensing and regulatory authority from specific cosmetology boards to state agencies as well.

In a Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing Monday, Housley addressed the many concerns she’s heard from cosmetologists who have had communication and mismanagement issues with the board. Several correspondents told Housley they were “terrified” to testify in support of the bill out of fear of retaliation from the board, she said.

“During COVID lockdowns for months, the board did not respond to the salons that had questions about safely reopening,” Housley said, noting that the board’s handling of COVID-19 was the “last straw” for many workers in the industry.

According to a press release, the board’s regulations have led to two civil rights lawsuits in the past 15 years. In 2019, a group of cosmetologists filed a lawsuit against the Board of Cosmetology for violating the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit was filed in response to a rule change from the Board of Cosmetology that subjected freelance hair and makeup artists to the same licensure requirements as salon managers.

As a result, freelance artists who wanted to offer their services for weddings were expected to complete 4,250 hours of training and pass four exams. The board issued cease-and-desist orders against 1,000 cosmetologists who did not complete the training before doing makeup at special events like weddings.

“There is a clear lack of oversight over the board’s regulations and policies, clearly demonstrated by the board’s sudden changing of requirements for freelance hair and makeup artists, which hurt hundreds of businesses throughout the state,” said Housley, who sponsored a successful, bipartisan bill last year to exempt freelance artists from the burdensome requirements.

She said the board “simply changed their interpretation of a rule on a whim,” which her bill seeks to prevent from happening again.

“This turned people’s lives upside down, and no one has held them accountable, even though these actions have lasting effects,” she said.

Housley shared additional insights into the board’s “unnecessary mandates” during Monday’s hearing. In one instance, a cosmetologist was fined by the board for having her license partly covered by a tissue box, Housley claimed.

“This transfer of authority will free our cosmetologists and others in the beauty industry from the recurring issues they’ve repeatedly faced in trying to work under this board’s jurisdiction,” she said.

In the committee hearing, Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, said she was “pretty baffled” to hear there are any concerns with the board, and Sen. Melissa Wiklund, DFL-Bloomington, claimed she has received emails from people who do not support the bill. Wiklund wants more data to be presented before the bill moves forward.

The Board of Cosmetology is currently being audited by the Office of the Legislative Auditor “in response to concerns about a wide range of issues.”


Rose Williams
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Rose Williams is an assistant editor for Alpha News.