City of New Orleans Requires Background Checks for Tour Guides

By Michael Klazema on 12/7/2012

In an attempt to regulate the tourism industry in New Orleans, the city has implemented higher standards, including background checks, in order for tour guides to become licensed. This does not sit well for at least four current city tour guides, who are suing the city for First Amendment violations. In addition to the background check, the new regulations include passing a city history exam, and a drug test. The guides’ attorney, Matthew Miller, said that his clients are participating in a practice that is “constitutionally protected,” not much different than street performers or similar activities.

New applicants are required to obtain a score of at least 70 percent on the history exam, give a urine sample for the drug test, and every two years must submit to a FBI background check. Applicants must pay about $80 for the tests. Failure to meet the requirements could result in a fine of $300 per infraction and a five month jail sentence. One of Miller’s clients, Candace Kagan, is refusing to comply and is currently giving tours despite her license being expired. Miller said his client found the requirements to be “totally offensive.” When Kagan attempted to renew her license, she refused to allow the city to maintain a record of her Social Security number, which caused her application to be rejected.

The city’s attorney for the case, Sharonda Williams, maintains that the city is merely “regulating business and conduct, not speech.” Although Williams was unable to provide examples of New Orleans tour guides physically harming a customer, she did say some tourists have complained about being “scammed” by guides who are “unqualified or unlicensed.” The hearing of the case, which took place September 6, has yet to be decided. Miller said that Williams “admitted...she did not” have “evidence showing a need to license tour guides.” According to Miller, there are currently about 500 licensed guides in the city, and an unknown number who work without a license. Miller said that the regulations have been on the books for several years, but were only recently being enforced by the mayor. Licensed tour guide and Haunted History Tours manager Kalila Smith believes having tour guides register with the city is a good idea, and that “background checks…are absolutely necessary.”

City governments around the country are increasing regulations for various industries to include background checks, as discussed in the article Arkansas City is Requiring Background Checks on All Solicitors. Even if they are not required by law, performing pre-employment background checks is an important way for employers to gauge the suitability of potential employees. Also, by using a reputable company like, you can be assured you are getting the best and most thorough background check screening techniques available. With access to countless criminal databases nationwide they have many options available, several with instant results. Their Ongoing Criminal Monitoring tool allows you to automatically run a continuous background check against a name and date of birth. You will be notified via email of any new information that may appear on their record. They will run the name for one year and remind you when it is time to renew the monitoring, plus you can remove the name from being monitored at any time. You can also try their National Wants and Warrants search. This search will give results within one to two days, and is a nationwide search of local, county, state, and Federal extraditable warrants, and may include misdemeanors or felonies. Most law enforcement agencies contribute to this database.

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