Each industry has a different set of laws and regulations to follow in order to maintain a professional license. When a professional license holder is found to have violated a law or regulation, there is the opportunity to defend against the allegations before disciplinary action, except automatic suspension in some cases. The hearings on professional licenses are administrative hearings, rather than criminal hearings. In administrative hearings, there is still the opportunity to present a defense, present evidence, call witnesses, and have legal representation. This process can be stressful and difficult for anyone, especially when your career may depend on it. There are certain actions that could make it more likely to face an administrative hearing.
Criminal Arrests, Convictions, and DUI Violations
Not only can an arrest, conviction, or DUI charge cause significant consequences to one’s personal life, but it can also result in disciplinary action against a person that holds a professional license. Licensing boards have the option to take action against a licensee after getting charged with a crime. Depending on the field of work, license revocation may be more likely. Generally, the criminal charge or conviction cannot be the basis of license revocation unless the crime is substantially related to the qualifications of the profession that the licensee works in. For example, a charge of driving under the influence is likely to be found to be substantially related to the profession of commercial driving. Similarly, a charge of embezzlement is substantially related to the duties and responsibilities of an accountant. On the other hand, drug-related charges are not substantially related to the duties of a hairdresser. Understandably, violent crimes are more likely to impact a licensee, especially if the licensee works in a profession that deals with vulnerable people like children or the elderly.
A common problem that people run into is failing to report convictions or charges when applying for a professional license. When applying for a license, an applicant must disclose to the licensing board what arrests or convictions they have, if asked on the application. Failure to do so can result in a revocation of that license at any point down the road. If an applicant is asked to disclose arrests and convictions, the applicant must do so even if the arrest happened but no charges were filed, when the conviction occurred a long time ago, or when the applicant was a juvenile. Not disclosing this information is the equivalent to knowingly making a false statement to the board and could result in a revocation of the license, even if the unreported crime would not be a basis for revocation.
Drug Abuse and Misuse Violations
Drug abuse and misuse is often the result of the disease of addiction and can really affect all aspects of a person’s life, including their professional life. Unfortunately, many people that hold professional licenses go through high-pressure situations and high levels of stress, which could increase the likelihood of drug use and dependency. In the medical field, physicians, nurses, and other professionals that work with patients can lose their license to practice medicine because of drug use.
Just last year, the Connecticut Board of Examiners for Nursing revoked several nurses’ licenses and disciplined several others for drug and alcohol use. One of these people was a licensed LPN who was put on probation for several years because she abused drugs and alcohol. This LPN did not lose her license, but she was required to undergo counseling, therapy, and random drug testing during the period of her probation. An RN had their license revoked completely after failing to submit urine tests after being placed on probation for abusing alcohol. It is important to not only seek help if you are dealing with drug or alcohol dependency, but also follow the requirements exactly if placed on probation.
Deficient Record Keeping Violations
Perhaps the least obvious reason for disciplinary action and license revocation is poor record keeping. Record keeping is essential for almost every profession because records contain information regarding patients and clients, business dealings, finances, and other documents that are essential to a business. Without properly kept records, businesses can lose track of important information, proof of dealings, private information, and make critical mistakes. For example, a physician that does not have proper documentation and medical history for a patient could make an unsafe decision regarding a patient’s medical care. If a business or professional is audited and found to have inadequate records, the Department that has authority could decide to investigate or take disciplinary action. The disciplinary action for poor record keeping varies depending on factors like the safety and health risks to patients, results of inspection, type of profession, and severity of the mishandling or misuse of the records.
Inappropriate Relationship Violations
Inappropriate relationships is an ambiguous term but generally refers to a relationship that abuses one’s power as a professional. For example, inappropriate relationships that could be seen as unethical or illegal include doctor and patient, teacher and student, and psychologist and client.
In many situations, romantic or sexual relationships with clients, students, or patients can result in serious consequences. These consequences could include lawsuits, revocation or suspension of the license, and even criminal charges. In some situations, inappropriate relations with a client, patient, or student may not be illegal, but may violate ethical codes of conduct. In some professions, sexual activity with a client could result in nothing less than license revocation. Some conduct such as non-sexual touching, giving gifts, and home visits could result in disciplinary action as well. The severity of discipline depends on many factors such as profession, the nature of the inappropriate relationship, the age of the pirates involved, the type of inappropriate behavior, and the legality of the behavior.
Failure to Meet Standard of Care Violations
Several years ago in Massachusetts, the medical board indefinitely suspended a doctor’s medical license and they were placed on probation after failing to meet the standard of care that is required of someone with a medical license. In this case, the board found that the doctor had failed to prescribe proper medications to patients, did not give patients full examinations, and failed to order proper tests for patients.
In another case, a New York physician assistant was reprimanded, fined, and put on probation for three years for writing prescriptions improperly, forging signatures on prescriptions, and giving medications to people who were not patients. In this case, the physician assistant went above and beyond failing to meet the required standard of care, but also knowingly committed serious misconduct.
In both cases, the doctors were able to escape serious licensure actions like revocation, but the board still disciplined them. In cases like these, it is essential to be prepared for disciplinary hearings by hiring counsel and developing an effective defense to ensure that the licensee gets the best outcome possible.