The Right to Earn a Living… “the most precious liberty man possesses.” ~Supreme Court Justice William Douglas
The Center for American Liberty and Dhillon Law Group are representing the Professional Beauty Federation of California, salon owner Rosie Ibarra and other salon owners, in their new lawsuit against California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California Public Health Officer Sonia Angel, and 12 members of the State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, for violating the civil rights, right to due process, and the constitutional right to earn a living.
As California Globe reported, for nearly two months, California officials have threatened criminal prosecution for violations of the Governor’s Order. “Defendants have effectively taken away Plaintiffs’ lawful right to engage in professional state-licensed activities,” the lawsuit says.
“This legal challenge seeks to curtail the Defendants’ overly broad and arbitrary orders and restore Plaintiffs’ rights to conduct their professions with appropriate and specific safeguards against the COVID-19 illness,” the lawsuit says. “Plaintiffs represent licensees who have been devastated by Defendants’ arbitrary and unclear categories (e.g. “essential” versus “non-essential”) that allow some businesses to operate while others are required to close.”
The PBFC represents more than 500,000 licensed professionals throughout the state, all of whom are currently prohibited from making a living under the governor’s current statewide shutdown orders.
Tuesday, Attorney Harmeet Dhillon with the Dhillon Law Group, held a Zoom press conference announcing the lawsuit, filed that morning in the United States District Court, Central District of California.
Why file a lawsuit?
“More than two months have passed since Governor Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency in California, and throughout that time, he and others in his administration have vaguely and arbitrarily classified licensed barbering and cosmetology professionals as “non-essential,” criminalizing the jobs these 500,000 plus state-licensed professionals perform in every community, large and small, throughout California. Last week, Defendants began threatening to revoke Plaintiffs’ licenses, which authorize them to safely serve the public’s personal grooming and beauty needs, and embody their ability to earn a living,” the lawsuit explains succinctly.
“Many of California’s beauty professionals are small business owners that employ 1099 contractors and aren’t eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program.”
“The points behind the scope of the case is to restore liberty, and the rights of these professionals,” Attorney Dhillon said. She addressed the close relationship between female stylists and clients. She said she has even heard from physicians who told her that hair stylists play a vital line role in identifying clients’ medical issues as well, such as spotting skin cancers and melanomas on the head. “It’s not just a vanity roll, but one of mental health and physical health.”
Fred Jones, attorney for the the Professional Beauty Federation of California, said salons, barbers, stylists and nail salons were arbitrarily put into the Stage 3 reopening category by Gov. Newsom. “We all agreed to flatten the contagion curve,” Jones said. “But the governor changed the goal posts in the middle of the game.”
Jones said there are 53,000 licensed salons and barber shops in California desperate to go back to work – in their safe, sanitary and clean salons. “Not to go house to house, kitchen to kitchen.” Jones said these licensed professional stylists and barbers have more than 1,000 hours of training on health and safety protocols, unlike many of the other industries, currently allowed to operate.
Rosie Ibarra, a first generation Cuban immigrant, said she and her husband have owned salons for 22 years. They have three children, which led Rosie to open a sub-suites company while allows stylists to rent out a space from her, while still operating as an independent contractor. “For the governor to extend this indefinite lockdown is a punch in the gut,” Ibarra said. “For me and my style professionals. Everyone in the state is affected by this.”
“We hope everything they’ve worked so hard for doesn’t go down the shampoo bowl drain. I hope the governor hears us,” she added.
While the governor’s statewide shutdown Order allows persons to continue working only if they are deemed “essential workers” in an “essential business,” Dhillon and Jones say the governor arbitrarily chose and excluded businesses.
“The ‘New Normal’ — the governor makes up the rules from his podium,” Dhillon said. “It’s irrational and cruel.”
Dhillon’s lawsuit outlines the civil rights violations:
“The governors’ arbitrary orders will continue to violate Plaintiffs’ fundamental rights, inflicting irreversible financial and personal harm to more than 500,000 licensed beauty professionals in California. They have offered no exceptions, and identified no future date for reinstatement of these lawful professions. In doing so, Defendants overstep the authority entrusted to them by the California Constitution, and violate Plaintiffs’ rights to due process. Plaintiffs hereby request that this Court provide narrow but appropriate relief to ensure the Governor has adequate latitude to address the COVID emergency, while also respecting Plaintiffs’ fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitutions of the United States and the State of California.”
Notably, the day after Dhillon announced she would be filing a lawsuit against the governor and State of CA on behalf of the salon owners and barbers, Gov. Newsom in his daily press conference claimed that the breakout of the coronavirus in California started in a nail salon. He was not challenged at the time since there are no Capitol reporters allowed at his press conferences, but since then, many have questioned his claim. “He seems to be trying to fabricate a narrative to stoke fear in the community,” Dhillon said, noting it is unconstitutional and cruel.
Attorney Jones said the governor’s claim was “slanderous. Almost 90% of our nail salons are Vietnamese owned and operated. What has he done to that community with that comment?” Jones asked. “We think it was utterly irresponsible and slanderous.”
Jones noted that he appealed to the governor’s cabinet-level officials, but got nowhere. “Some governors allow appeals processes – but not this governor,” Dhillon said. “That doesn’t exist in California.”
“The onus is on government when government takes away your rights, they must explain why,” Dhillon said. “They (stylists and barbers) are being put into bankruptcy by this uncertainty.”
“This unilateral reordering of the economy is occurring without any legislative or electoral oversight,” Dhillon said. “It also exceeds the widely-recognized limitations on government authority under the United States Constitution and California law.”
“The governor needs to trust our state licensees,” Jones said. “We’re ready to meet our responsibilities and and return to operations to earn a living.”
“Many can’t pick up their and move business like Elon Musk is threatening to do,” Dhillon said. “It’s about liberty and he Constitution… that’s why I am doing this.”
UPDATE: Attorney Harmeet Dhillon replied to the many requests to join the lawsuit: “Because we represent the industry trade association, the relief we are seeking benefits the entire industry. We are not taking on new clients for this case and salon owners/stylists and barbers do not need to join it to benefit.”