Memphis Barber Wins Lawsuit Against Tennessee Officials who Kept Him from Working

Elias Zarate


A Memphis man has won a lawsuit against the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners for denying him the right to work.

As The Tennessee Star reported in 2018, state officials denied that man, Elias Zarate, a barber’s license because he did not have a high school diploma.

A press release that the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee emailed Monday updated Zarate’s case. Beacon, a right-of-center think tank, represented him.

The judge ruled that it was constitutionally irrational for the government to require barbers to obtain a high school degree, especially when they don’t require one for cosmetologists, who perform essentially the same function,” Beacon officials said in their press release.

Beacon Vice President of Legal Affairs Braden Boucek said in the press release that “the government shouldn’t stand between Elias and the career he loved just because he didn’t graduate high school.”

“If emergency personnel don’t need to graduate high school to restart the heart of a person who stopped breathing, then you can cut hair without a high school degree. Today’s ruling finally righted this injustice,” Boucek said.

“After overcoming massive challenges throughout his life, Elias and other barbers who do not have a high school degree are finally able to go back to work.”

As reported, Zarate’s mother died in a car accident. Authorities deported his father, who was in the United States illegally. Elias attended school and worked to support his two younger siblings, but he ultimately quit in the 11th grade to work full time.

“After so many years of hard, grueling work to provide for others, Elias thought he had made it,” the Beacon Center of Tennessee wrote in an article at the time.

“He was finally able to work in a field that he cared about and had a talent for, and he was able to earn good money doing it. Life, it seemed, was coming together,” Beacon officials wrote.

“State officials quickly tore his dream apart. Elias was shut down shortly after he got started. He was subjected to fines and other civil punishment.”

Davidson County Chancellor Anne C. Martin oversaw Zarate’s case, according to court documents.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]





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One Thought to “Memphis Barber Wins Lawsuit Against Tennessee Officials who Kept Him from Working”

  1. Julie

    Much like we have seen with Mayor Coopers COVID antics government doesn’t have to be logical.