New Orleans Tour Guides Request Exemption from Drug Tests, Background Checks

For many, regardless of occupation, background checks, and occasionally drug tests, are a stepping stone toward employment. Employers, particularly those hiring employees to interface with the public, may find that not thoroughly screening candidates results in a poor hiring decision: an aid with a criminal background, for instance, taking care of children or the elderly. Should tour guides be treated any differently?

In New Orleans, tour guides apparently find background checks restrict their freedom of speech. This week, according to a piece in the Washington Post, a group of New Orleans tour guides requested, to a federal judge, that the city no longer enforce such regulations. The employment process for this position involves passing a history exam, a drug test, and a criminal background check.

After this initial hiring step, renewing their license is contingent on passing a drug test and background check every two years. Their lawsuit claims the city’s regulations violate their free speech rights.

What happens when guides are unlicensed? According to the Post, they face up to $300 in fines and potentially up to five months of jail time. While the punishment may seem unreasonably harsh, particularly as the city could just simply fire tour guides who fail to renew their licenses, the judge overseeing the case, dismissed their claim, stating that the city’s regulations are put in place to protect the public.

The judge, in dismissing the case, is taking the right approach to safety. Although interfacing with the vulnerable public may, on the surface, be relegated to nursing homes, daycare centers, and schools, predators and criminals lurk in unsuspecting places. As we saw in August, a loophole regarding private home healthcare workers resulted in murder, while instances involving a clown arrested for child porn and a sex offender behind the wheel of an ice cream truck indicate the need for screening in less-typical work scenarios.

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