Like criminal cases, many if not most administrative cases end with a settlement, rather than a hearing and a decision from the board. A settlement happens after an investigation and a notice but before a hearing. There is usually at least one conference or several conferences in which the parties set terms that they agree on. The result of most settlements is that the licensee that has been accused must agree to an order to do or not do something. The most common settlement orders are suspension or revocation of the professional license, probation, or other restrictions on performing work duties.
Suspensions and Revocations
A suspension of the professional license is a common settlement term. Any license can potentially be suspended including medical, professional, and trade licenses. If your license is suspended it means that you cannot legally perform your work duties for a period of time. The other factor to be aware of is that a license suspension is almost always made public, meaning future employers, current coworkers, clients, patients, and insurance companies could potentially become aware of the suspension.
One positive aspect of license suspension is that revocation is avoided, meaning the possibility of reinstatement is available. Reinstatement is almost guaranteed upon successful completion of the suspension period and compliance with any other restrictions or requirements like treatment programs, and often, the public does not find out about the suspension unless they go out of their way to search for it. One thing to keep in mind is that although license suspensions are temporary, other restrictions such as working alone may continue to be in place past the time of the suspension.
License revocation is the most devastating outcome of a settlement agreement. Only in the most severe cases of allegations is a license revocation on the table. In this situation, if the licensee and their attorney feel that there is a good defense or the possibility of a lesser disciplinary action, an administrative hearing, rather than a settlement may be the way to go. However, even when a professional is facing license revocation, there is still the possibility to get reinstated in some cases. When a professional is faced with possible license revocation, it is critical to consult an attorney and discuss the factors involved. This includes the nature of the offense, the extent that the allegations affect job performance, the consequences of the revocation for future job opportunities, and the possibility that the revocation could lead to criminal charges.
Probation and Restrictions
Probation is common in the healthcare industry and often means the professional is closely watched and monitored. Probation periods could last for months or even years and may require the professional to complete extra training or programs during that time period. For example, a nurse that has been accused of substance abuse may be put on probation for a year and during that year, they are required to attend substance abuse treatment programs and counseling.
Restrictions on work duties look different across all professions. In the construction industry, restrictions could be an injunction, meaning refraining from building in a specific area, using certain materials, or even being required to clean a certain area. For example, if a construction company has made a mistake that involves harmful materials being used, the company may be restricted from continuing to use those materials or redo the portion of the construction that contains the harmful materials. Injunctions and restrictions could cost a significant amount of labor expense and time. Restrictions for a pharmacist or physician mean that the professional is not allowed to prescribe medications to patients for a period of time. Restrictions could be coupled with a probation period in which the restriction lasts for as long as the probation period and that behavior is closely monitored.
If you are at any stage in the process facing disciplinary action or you have been notified of allegations against you and are considering settling or requesting a hearing, contact our office to discuss your options.