Salon Stylists Called Upon to Identify Domestic Violence

By: James D. Voigt

November 8, 2016

Under a new Illinois statute (225 ILCS 410/3E-5), salon stylists in Illinois will be called upon to become educated in the area of identifying signs of domestic violence. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2017 and is an update to the existing Barber, Cosmetology, Esthetics, Hair Braiding, and Nail Technology Act of 1985. Those individuals licensed under the Act already have an obligation to obtain between ten and twenty hours per year of continuing education. Under the new law, at least one hour of that education must be in the area of domestic violence and sexual assault awareness.

The continuing legal education requirement is administered by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation. The requirement is to obtain the continuing education only. While the act would appear to indicate a preference for stylists to report domestic abuse, there is no specific requirement to do so.

The rationale behind the new law is that salon stylists are often engaged in conversation with clients that can be of a highly personal nature. They are also in a unique position to observe possible signs of abuse since they are in close contact with and closely observing the scalp and other areas of the body where domestic and sexual abuse injuries are frequently found.

Providing services covered by the Act without a license can subject the stylist to fines of up to $5,000 per incident. Failure to meet the continuing education requirements under the new law can result in revocation of a stylist’s license and subsequent penalty for operating without a license.

The new statute does not provide any guidance as to whether someone reporting abuse would be immune from civil liability for doing so. The Illinois Domestic Violence Act does provide protection for reporting of abuse for specific types of victims. Anyone reporting abuse of an individual over the age of 60, or any high risk individual with disabilities, is provided statutory protection from criminal prosecution or civil liability for reporting the abuse. It is unclear whether there would be any similar protection for victims who do not fit into these two categories. There are penalties, though, for false reporting allowing the wrongfully accused individual to recover attorney’s fees and costs and possibly subjecting the party reporting the abuse to criminal prosecution for perjury. These penalties relate to a person making an allegation “without reasonable cause” where the allegations were ultimately found to be untrue.

It is unclear from the new legislation whether a salon or other employer or a stylist would be potentially liable for the wrongful reporting of abuse by one of its employees. Under the common law concept of respondeat superior, an employer can be held liable for the wrongful acts of employees. It would stand to reason then that a wrongful report of domestic abuse by a stylist could result in liability for the employer.

With several unanswered questions as this time, it is best for all stylists and salons employing them to ensure that any person requiring a license be sure to observe the new continuing education requirement. It is hoped that the education provided beginning January 1 may answer some of the concerns raised in this article. Until these concerns are properly addressed, stylists and salon owners should use caution to avoid any reporting which could be seen as being without reasonable cause.

If you like to contact the author, attorney James Voigt can be reached at (847) 705-7555.