AB 326 affects salons

By Kathe Malouf
Special to the Sun

Secrets shared with hairdressers and barbers might not be secrets much longer with the passage of new legislation aimed at training salon professionals on how to spot signs of domestic violence.

On Sept. 27, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 326, a Domestic Violence Prevention Bill authored by Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) authorizing the State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (BBC) to promote awareness among salon professions on the issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and elder abuse.

AB 326 directs the BBC’s Health and Safety Advisory Committee to adopt courses to raise awareness on how to spot the signs of physical and sexual abuse from their clients, and promote abuse prevention awareness as part of the salon professional licensing process. The bill mandates sexual assault and domestic violence training for beauticians, barbers and stylists. The training would be given to salon professionals as they apply for a license.

Trained stylists are not required by the Bill to act on any information they receive or observe.

Those who are already licensed would not have to take the training, but it will be available to them online.

“I am very pleased that Governor Brown has supported this important step forward in preventing domestic violence and sexual assaults,” Assemblyman Salas said in a press release issued by his office. “Far too often, cases of abuse go unreported. These professionals serve a unique role in connecting victims with the help and assistance they need to move out of an abusive relationship.”

Salas stated that because of a trust that often exists between professional hairstylists and their clients, there is an opportunity to connect victims of abuse with local agencies and resources.

But that connection already exists for many stylists and beauticians.

“That is what we do, we do get involved with our clients,” said C.J. Bundy, who has been a professional hair stylist for the past 50 years. “We listen to them and we know them, and if one of our clients is in an abusive situation, we will help by guiding them to a counselor, pastor, women’s shelter.”

As it is currently written, AB 326 will only require that stylists receive training on how to spot domestic violence. Unlike doctors and teachers, stylists wouldn’t be legally required to take action if they suspect a client to be in a bad situation.

That is fine with Bundy, who said that is where the new legislation should end.

“We should not have to be the reporting authority,” Bundy said.

Bundy said she was aware of the new legislation and said that many of the stylists she has spoken to agree that they should not be required to take any action.

In the past, Bundy said she has seen clients who were victims of abuse, and she said she would try to help them by guiding or directing them where to get help. “But a lot of women don’t want help,” she said.

“If someone is sitting in my chair and wants help, I have directed them to where they can get help,” Bundy said, adding that she can tell when something is off with a regular client. Perhaps they are quieter than usual. “But no one can tell a woman to leave when she doesn’t want to leave.”

The BBC licenses and regulates approximately 550,000 licensees, including barbers, cosmetologists, estheticians, manicurists, salon establishments and mobile units.

Training is required to be in place by July 1, 2019.