Imagine spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to pursue a career, only to have the licensing board reject your application. That happened to Courtney Haveman and Amanda Spillane. The Pennsylvania Cosmetology board rejected their applications not because of a lack of training or because they failed the exam, but because they were deemed not of “good moral character.”
Haveman and Spillane both abused drugs earlier in life but have been sober and not in trouble for years. They paid their fees, logged their training hours, and even passed the exam to become estheticians. When it came time to apply for a license, the board cited their years-old criminal records as the reason to deny their licenses.
The two women sued on the grounds that barbers in the state aren’t held to the same standard, and the Pennsylvania state court agreed.
This is a win for the two women, but brings up another question. Why do you need a license to be an esthetician in the first place? It turns out that one in five Americans need a license to work, and many of those licenses look like nothing more than money grabs by the state and a way for people currently in the profession to keep others out.
Even so, laws limiting people previously convicted of a crime, known as “collateral consequences,” remain widespread. Nationwide, there are approximately 30,000 such laws related to employment alone, and they are found at every level of government: local, state and federal. With approximately 1 in 5 Americans required to hold a license to legally work, there are many common occupations from which people with criminal convictions are excluded, making it that much harder for them to find a job and stay out of trouble. A recent report from IJ, Barred from Working, documents these licensing barriers.