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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

"Tennesseans and all Americans have the right to earn a living" | TN Barber license battle ends with a win for Memphis man

A high school requirement has been eliminated for a barber's license.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — A Memphis man wins his legal battle against the state of Tennessee over requirements to become a barber. 

Elias Zarate couldn't get a barber's license because he didn't have a high school diploma, as required by state law,

The court decision now means anyone can be a licensed barber, even if they haven't graduated from high school.

"I'm just grateful - happy we won and hopefully we can put this behind us," said Elias Zarate. 

Zarate is excited because now that he won his lawsuit, soon he will be able to become a licensed barber. Zarate never finished high school and a high school diploma was a requirement for getting a Tennessee Barber license. Even though a high school diploma was needed to become a barber, you didn't need a high school diploma to become a cosmetologist.

"Not just that cosmetologists don't need to graduate high school - emergency medical responders don't need to graduate high school, the governor of the state doesn't need to graduate high school. This was an unusual burden we just imposed upon barbers," said Braden Bouchel, VP of Legal Affairs at the Beacon Center of Tennessee.  

The Beacon Center of Tennessee filed the lawsuit on Zarate's behalf and others like him.

Tennessee board of cosmetology and barber examiners said barbers needed a high school diploma to ensure they would understand and comply with federal and state rules and regulations.

According to the ruling, "The court found no rational basis for requiring that a barber have a high school degree."

Boucek says it was a waste of time and taxpayer money for the state to fight this litigation.

"This was not a case that needed to be this hard. This is a law that was irrational and never should have been on the books. Tennesseans and all Americans have the right to earn a living."

RELATED: Beacon Center Files Lawsuit Over TN Requirement That Barbers Must Have High School Diploma

As for Zarate, he plans on opening a barber shop. He said he is glad he has helped pave the way for those without a high school diploma to gain a career. 

"It's a lot more opportunity to make more income and feed their families, and I'm grateful to be a part of this," said Zarate.

A high school diploma may no longer be needed to become a barber, but to get a license, a person will still need to go to school, get 1500 hours of training, and pass two tests.  

UPDATE 8/11/2020 - The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance released this statement Tuesday: "The Department is currently reviewing the order and will follow up with additional information upon further review. We remain committed to fostering fair marketplaces, public safety, and consumer education that promote the success of individuals and businesses while serving as innovative leaders. We will also continue to protect Tennesseans through balanced oversight of regulated professions while enhancing consumer advocacy, education, and public safety."