Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Interior Design "Titling" Law Unconstitutional

I have a rather unconventional employment law topic today: "titling" laws. Across the U.S. many states require licenses for any number of professions. I happen to hold such a position as a licensed attorney. Sometimes, a state legislature won't commit to enacting a full fledged licensing law, however, so they enact a title law.

For example, under Connecticut law, individuals do not need a license to practice interior design, but they do need a license to call themselves "interior designers." In other words, if you don't have a license you can still be an interior designer but shhhhh, don't tell anyone!

The practical effect of such laws is to prohibit unlicensed interior designers from telling their clients 100% truthful information: they are interior designers! Therein lies the legal issue. The first amendment (applicable to states through the fourteenth amendment) protects the right to free speech. On Tuesday, the Connecticut federal district court struck down the state's interior design titling law as unconstitutional. Roberts v. Farrell (June 30, 2009).

Unlicensed interior designers seeking to protect their first amendment rights accept a certain risk in bringing such suits. The legislature may abandon its efforts and the unlicensed designers can finally shout from the rooftops, "I am an Interior Designer!" The legislature may, however, cure the defect by going the opposite direction and requiring a license to practice interior design.

NOTE: Lawffice Space had its 1000th hit today! Thank you so much for reading.