Let Tennesseans like me keep working


March 9, 2020 4:02PM

I am one of the 16 people moving to Nashville every day. I moved here to work as a cosmetologist, having been licensed in New York and in Ohio, where I had earned certification as a Master Barber. I had been cutting hair for four years and built a substantial clientele everywhere I went.

But when I got here, I was told I could not keep working.

Like thousands of others moving into Tennessee, I was astonished to learn that even though I had a valid license to do a job in another state and had practiced for years without any complaints against me, I couldn’t obtain my Tennessee license.

Ohio and Tennessee both require 1,500 hours of schooling, which I had accomplished. My problem was that I had only worked for four years, and Tennessee requires five years of work in addition to the minimum hours before it will recognize a license from another state. Despite having earned the proper amount of hours in school and another 8,000 hours on the job, I was still denied my license. 

Instead, I had to go back to school just to keep doing the job that I had done successfully for years. Fortunately, my employer was generous enough to hold me a position while I completed these extra hours of education. Many aren’t so lucky. 

I know that people who have obtained a license here worked hard to earn it. But so did I. If someone has earned a license in another state, they deserve the opportunity to keep working when they come to Tennessee. Especially when they have been working and earning hours on the job, proving that they can work without consumer complaints. Otherwise, people like me may have to rely on public assistance rather than being productive, taxpaying citizens doing the job they love and are qualified to do. So our state’s policy is not only bad for new residents like me and for our economy as a whole, it’s also costly to taxpayers.

While I already had to hit pause on my career for eight months and pay thousands of dollars out of pocket to get extra “hours” to do a job I already knew how to do, I don’t want other new Tennesseans to face the same fate. 

That’s why I support a bill in the state legislature that would simply recognize valid licenses from new residents. Other bills that have received a lot of attention recently would do away with certain licenses altogether. This would not. Those moving here would have to earn a license in another state and work in that profession or occupation for at least a year in good standing before their license would be recognized by Tennessee.

This is a common sense approach to the problem. A surgeon can already move to Tennessee and perform open-heart surgery the next day, yet I couldn’t move here and continue cutting hair. 

This bill would make it possible for everyone moving here to keep working as long as they have a valid license from another state, just like we already recognize for doctors, accountants, nurses, and numerous other professions. Doing so would send the message that we welcome those moving here and tell them that they can keep working and contributing to our economy.