Occupational Licensing: A Warning

Occupational Licensing: A Warning

In a recent case (Gibson u. Berryhill 1973) the [Supreme] Court had the opportunity to review occupational licensing. In this case a group of licensed optometrists sought to prevent charges against them by the Alabama Board of Optometry. The optometrists argued that they would be unconstitutionally deprived of their right to practice their profession, since the board was biased and could not provide them with a fair and impartial hearing in conformity with due process of law. Even though the Court returned the case to a lower court for reconsideration, it agreed with a previous ruling that the board was so biased that it could not constitutionally proceed against the optometrists.
This case is important because it indicates the Court’s willingness to analyze the realities of the occupational licensing situation. It is not infrequent that a licensing board is composed of practitioners from the occupation it is supposed to be regulating. In this situation it would seem that a form of self-regulation could exist, particularly in view of the fact that licensing boards have complete control of occupational entry by control over the licensing test. A recent analysis of a licensing test in Florida in which all 2,149 people who took the test failed suggests that such self-regulation is indeed a reality. Nevertheless, Gibson did not speak of broad policy changes in occupational licensing, and the decision will probably have a limited application.

Patrick K. Mackin

Journal of Counseling and Development

June 1976

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