Occupational Licensing in Louisiana
What is Occupational Licensing?
Occupational licensing is a permit issued by the government that allows someone to work in a particular field. In Louisiana, nearly one in five workers must now get an occupational license before they can legally do their job. But many of these licenses are too strict, and they don’t even improve service quality or protect the public from actual harm.
Licenses Create Barriers to Working in Louisiana
Occupational licenses often impose high barriers to entry. That makes it much harder for people to find work or to start a new business. According to the Institute for Justice’s report, License to Work, the average license for low- and moderate-income jobs in Louisiana takes 175 days of education and experience. In fact, Louisiana has the sixth worst licensing laws in the entire country.
Many of the state’s required classes can be very expensive. For instance, cosmetology is one of the state’s most popular licenses. In Louisiana, it takes at least 1,500 hours of classes to get a license in cosmetology. On average, a cosmetology program in the state costs $14,308, while the average student takes out $8,787 in federal student loans. But despite such a hefty investment, many cosmetologists barely earn enough to get by: Half of cosmetologists make less than $19,680 a year.
Licensing Lawsuits by the Institute for Justice in Louisiana
Since Louisiana has some of the nation’s worst licensing laws, it should come as no surprise that Louisiana’s licensing boards have been a frequent target for IJ litigation. Louisiana is the only state in the country that licenses florists. On behalf of multiple florists who would otherwise be able to work freely in 49 other states, IJ challenged the state’s floristry license. However, after IJ filed suit, one of the original clients, Sandy Meadows, tragically passed away, while Hurricane Katrina forced the other plaintiffs to relocate or find other employment.
IJ later filed a second lawsuit to challenge Louisiana’s florist license. This prompted the legislature to eliminate the most burdensome aspects of the license, including a highly subjective “demonstration examination,” where test-takers would be judged by licensed florists, i.e., their future business rivals.
The Institute also challenged another rare occupational license. New Orleans is one of the few U.S. cities that requires a license to be a tour guide. On behalf of four New Orleans tour guides, Candance Kagan, Mary LaCoste, Joycelyn Cole and Annette Watt, IJ sued the city for infringing on their First Amendment rights. Although another federal appeals court struck down an almost identical tour-guide license in Washington, DC, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nevertheless upheld the New Orleans licensing law.
IJ successfully represented Saint Joseph Abbey, a century-old Benedictine monastery in Covington, Louisiana, that was the victim of a regulatory crackdown. To support their Abbey, the monks wanted to make and sell simple, handcrafted wooden caskets. Even though caskets are just a wooden box, the state funeral board banned the monks from selling their wares, unless they became licensed funeral directors and turn their monastery into a “funerary establishment” with embalming equipment. But in a landmark decision, the Fifth Circuit sided with the monks and lambasted the state for urging federal courts “to accept nonsensical explanations for regulation.”
IJ also successfully challenged a Louisiana law that forced eyebrow threaders to become licensed estheticians, a license that takes 750 hours of classes and can cost over $10,000. On behalf of salon owner Lata Jagtiani, and threaders Ushaben Chudasama and Panna Shah, IJ filed a lawsuit against the state’s cosmetology board. In response, the board backed down and exempted threaders from licensing. Now threaders only have to register and pass a 15-question exam on sanitation.
The Institute for Justice is currently fighting back against Louisiana’s burdensome braiding license. Anyone who wants to earn a living braiding hair must first complete 500 hours of training before they can twist or weave a single strand of hair. The state’s licensing requirements are clearly excessive: Natural hair braiding is completely safe and is already exempt from licensure in more than 30 states, including all of Louisiana’s neighbors (Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas). This lawsuit is still pending.
Licensing Reforms in Louisiana
Working with the Institute for Justice, Louisiana lawmakers have enacted multiple reforms in recent years. Louisiana has passed a law that requires the governor’s office to review one-fifth of Louisiana’s occupational regulations each year, repealed a law that allowed the state to suspend and revoke licenses over unpaid student loans, eliminated residency requirements for liquor licenses, and eliminated licensing barriers for ex-offenders.
Can You Get a License to Work with a Criminal Record in Louisiana?
Thanks to reforms enacted in 2022, Louisiana has opened up many licensed fields to people with criminal records. Licensing boards in Louisiana can only disqualify applicants who have been convicted of a crime that “directly relates” to the license. Boards must also consider whether an applicant has been rehabilitated. In addition, the state requires boards to offer a predetermination process that lets applicants see if their criminal record could disqualify them, before they invest in any costly training or classes.
How You Can Help
If you are a Louisiana resident and you want to help fight against these unfair and unnecessary licensing laws, there are a few ways you can get involved. You can donate to the Institute for Justice, sign up for our email updates, and share our message with your network. Together, we can make sure that all Louisiana workers have the economic liberty they deserve.
Louisiana Occupational Licensing Cases
Louisiana Occupational Licensing In The News
Are Occupational Licenses Preventing You From Working inLouisiana ?
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Occupational Licensing Research
This third edition of IJ’s landmark License to Work report finds that for lower-income Americans, licensing continues to be widespread, burdensome and—frequently—irrational. It also provides a blueprint for meaningful licensing reform.
Cosmetology | Economic Liberty
Cosmetology is one of the most widely and onerously regulated occupations for lower-income workers, yet little research has explored the experiences of aspiring beauty workers. This first-of-its-kind study takes advantage of federal educational…
Economic Liberty | Occupational Licensing
Earning an honest living is one of the best ways to prevent re-offending. But strict occupational licensing requirements make it harder for ex-offenders to find work, thwarting their chances of successful reentry.
Economic Liberty | Occupational Licensing
Not only do state occupational licensing laws force people to spend a lot of time and money earning a license instead of earning a living, they also impose real economic costs. This study takes advantage…
Learn more about our Economic Liberty work.
Economic liberty—the right to earn a living in the occupation of your choice without unnecessary government interference—is at the heart of the American Dream. Unfortunately, all too many entrepreneurs find that this dream is under constant attack by unreasonable licensing, permitting and other requirements that stand in the way of honest competition.Learn More
Reforming Occupational Licensing Nationwide
All Americans deserve the opportunity to earn an honest living. Yet occupational licenses, which are essentially permission slips from the government, routinely stand in the way of honest enterprise. Since our founding, IJ has fought to roll back oppressive occupational-licensing rules in more than two dozen distinct occupations, ranging all the way from tax preparers to florists to traditional African hair braiders. Learn more about IJ’s occupational-licensing work in all 50 states:
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