2 women sue state for denying them cosmetology licenses due to 'moral character'

John McDevitt
December 12, 2018 - 1:01 pm
Amanda Spillane (left) speaks at Independence Hall during a press conference discussing a lawsuit she and Courtney Haveman filed against the state for denying them cosmetology licenses.

John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Two women who were denied cosmetology licenses because they didn't meet Pennsylvania's "good moral character" requirements are suing the state.

The women and their lawyers spoke about the lawsuit at the People's Plaza at Independence Hall Wednesday.

"There is no requirement like this for a barber," said attorney Andrew Ward, "so you need good moral character to tweeze a hair, just not to shave one."

Ward, with the Institute for Justice, represents Courtney Haveman of Yardley and Amanda Spillane from Philadelphia, who both have criminal records stemming from substance abuse. 

"Five-and-a-half years ago, I decided to turn my life around and I've been clean and sober ever since," said Haveman. "I made mistakes in my past and I learned and I've grown from them."

They both wanted to turned their lives around, and they spent thousands of dollars to attend cosmetology school. 

They lined up jobs, too, but the Pennsylvania State Board of Cosmetology denied to give them licenses because they didn't meet "good moral character" requirements.

Pennsylvania requires good moral character for a number of jobs, ranging from a landscape architect to a poultry technician. People with past criminal records who apply for jobs with this restriction are considered "collateral consequences" for the state.

Approximately one in five Americans are required to hold a license to legally work, according to the Institute for Justice, which excludes many ex-offenders from potential jobs, making it even harder for them to find employment.