There's a very good reason the state of Vermont has licensing boards for professions such as nurse, teacher, doctor, and engineer. A license from a state agency lets your clients, customers, and patients know that you're educated, that you're trustworthy, and that spending their hard-earned money on your services will be well worth it.
No one said, though, that earning and keeping your license would be easy. If you want the public to trust you, you have to keep proving your abilities over and over again throughout your career. You must be continually learning and continually improving. Fair enough: you're a professional.
Less fair? Having to deal with complaints. Every time a customer gets their nose out of joint, you have to face your licensing board. Maybe there's a lengthy investigation and a hearing. Maybe your license itself is put in jeopardy. That's a lot to have to deal with on your own when you need your time to serve your customers and continually improve your knowledge base.
Luckily, you don't have to deal with licensing issues all on your own. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team are here to help. They know the law, and they know the licensing system in Vermont. They're also on your side. Whatever problem you might be facing, you can trust Joseph D. Lento and his team to handle it and get you the very best possible resolution to your case.
The Disciplinary Process for Licensed Professionals in Vermont
If you work as a professional, whether you're a carpenter, social worker, geologist, or contractor, there's probably a licensing board in the state of Vermont that sets the guidelines for your industry and makes sure they are enforced. In fact, some industries, such as health care, have multiple boards that handle various specialties. In Vermont, there are state agencies that govern
- Physical Therapists
- Occupational Therapists
- Speech-language Pathologists
- Massage Therapists
As you might expect, every board maintains its own set of rules and procedures, and no two treat investigations the same. That said, if you've been charged with violating your professional or ethical responsibilities, you can expect a four-step process no matter what your specific profession.
- First, someone lodges a complaint against you.
- Next, the board undertakes an investigation of that complaint.
- If you're found responsible for a violation, you can either accept the charges and the accompanying sanctions, or you can challenge this finding at a formal hearing.
- Finally, if you are found responsible, you are issued a Letter of Concern, or Consent Order.
Virtually anyone can lodge a complaint against you.
- A colleague
- Another practitioner
- A patient or client
- An employee
- An insurer
In addition, your licensing board itself can raise issues about your professional conduct. Most boards conduct regular inspections and reviews to ensure that licensed members are performing up to standards and expectations.
Your board can also receive a complaint about you from your county clerk. Many professionals are subject to rules that govern their behavior outside of work. A conviction for DUI or domestic battery could place your license in jeopardy, even if these convictions take place outside of work. It is the country clerk that normally reports such convictions to licensing boards.
In any case, once it has received a complaint about you, the state agency must then decide how to proceed.
Most licensing boards conduct a preliminary investigation into all complaints. Often, this investigation is merely to determine if the complaint against you is covered under the board's jurisdiction. A simple fee dispute, for example, or a complaint about rude language isn't enough to warrant a full-scale investigation. The board may also consider whether the complaint is actually credible before it takes any further action.
If your agency does open a case against you, it will then conduct an investigation to uncover the facts. It should provide you with some notification of this investigation, including a copy of the official complaint and an explanation of your due process rights. In addition, the agency should keep you apprised of all developments in the case, including a description of what evidence it has uncovered.
In terms of the investigation itself, you can expect investigators to contact you for an interview. This is a chance for you to explain your side of the situation. In addition, they may interview colleagues, supervisors, and anyone who could have information about the events in question.
Once the investigation is complete, investigators then submit their findings to the board itself. It is up to the board to decide what to do with those findings, to exonerate you or to punish you as appropriate.
The board may issue a preliminary decision as to your responsibility and may even issue sanctions. However, you have the right to challenge those decisions at a formal hearing.
In general outline, hearings work like trials. That is, both sides have the chance to build their cases by submitting evidence and calling witnesses. You may also cross-examine witnesses against you.
To be clear, though, a hearing is not a trial and isn't governed by the same rules of procedure. For example, there won't be strict rules of evidence determining what can be submitted and what can't. You also shouldn't expect decision-makers to use the commonly known "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard in deciding your guilt. More likely, they'll use something called "preponderance of the evidence." This means you are guilty if decision-makers are more than fifty percent convinced you committed a violation.
The good news is that you can expect the agency to give you some important due process rights. One of the most important of these rights is the right to legal representation. Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team can work with you from start to finish of a case, creating a defense strategy, collecting evidence, and developing questions for witnesses. In most cases, they can even present your case for you.
Consent Orders and Other Temporary Actions
Finally, if your licensing board decides you are responsible for a violation, it then has the authority to assign sanctions or penalties. Most often, sanctions include official reprimand, probation, suspension, and license revocation.
Both the official findings and an explanation of the sanctions are included in what's known as a Letter of Concern or a Consent Order. Sometimes this letter is "private." That is, only you and the agency have copies. More often, though, it is "public," because it tells both your colleagues and potential customers that the agency is doing its job and holding licensed members accountable for their actions.
You can, of course, accept the charges against you and the proposed sanctions. In such cases, the board issues its Letter of Concern without a hearing.
The fact is, it can be tricky to know whether it's better to challenge board decisions or not. This can be yet another way that Joseph D. Lento and his team can help. In addition, even if you choose not to take your case to a hearing, Joseph D. Lento and his team can play a crucial role in helping you negotiate minimum sanctions and making sure your letter is private rather than public.
Just What Can Joseph D. Lento and His Team Do For You?
It's no exaggeration to say that your license is your livelihood. Without it, you're barred from practicing your profession. That can be devastating, especially if you've been in your career for some time. It undoes everything you've done up to that point and usually means you have to start all over with a new career.
In other words, you can't afford to take any complaint lightly, and that means you can't afford to try and handle it yourself.
Add to this the fact that judicial rules and procedures can be complicated and difficult to navigate, and you can understand why it's far better to have an attorney at your side throughout the process.
What can attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team do for you?
- They can review the complaint against you, looking for holes in the case. They can also explain the finer details of the complaint to you and use those to help you plan an effective defense strategy.
- They can assist in preparing your entire case. They can uncover witnesses, gather evidence, and draft any necessary documents.
- They can accompany you to all investigative meetings as your official legal counsel. They can help you answer questions and, in general, make sure that investigators respect all of your due process rights.
- They can draft a response to the complaint itself. In some cases, you may be able to get the case dismissed altogether. At a minimum, you can often help to mitigate the seriousness of the case.
- They can negotiate with the board to dismiss the case against you.
- If you are found guilty, they can negotiate with the board for minimum sanctions.
- They can represent you at the hearing. This includes speaking for you, introducing evidence, and examining and cross-examining all witnesses.
Areas We Serve in Vermont
The Lento Law Firm works in all of Vermont's most important cities, and can take clients from the surrounding areas as well. This includes:
- Burlington: Vermont's most populous city, located on the shores of Lake Champlain
- Montpelier: Vermont's state capital and an important business hub
- Stowe: A popular tourist destination located in the shadow of Vermont's tallest peak, Mount Mansfield
- Rutland: Home of the College of St. Joseph, located near the Massachusetts border
Allegations and Offenses that Could Jeopardize Your License
You might be asking yourself at this point, just what kind of complaints should I be worried about? Of course, complaints can come in all forms, and not all of them will merit an investigation. Here's a brief list of those that are most likely to cause problems.
- Inaccurate Record Keeping: Though this might seem like a minor violation, many professions demand strict bookkeeping, including law and medicine.
- Inappropriate Handling of Materials: Likewise, if you deal with medicines or with hazardous chemicals or other materials, your licensing board probably takes your handling of these materials very seriously.
- Fraud: Your licensing board likely won't get involved in a fee dispute, but an allegation of fraud—taking kickbacks, charging for services not rendered, up-coding an insurance claim—can certainly trigger a full-scale investigation.
- Abuse or Gross Negligence: Abuse of a client or patient, or creating a situation where a client or patient could potentially be harmed are both grounds for license revocation.
- Sexual Misconduct: Any form of unwanted sexual advances can be serious trouble. Even consensual relationships with customers and patients are strictly forbidden in many professions.
- Substance Abuse/ Addiction: An addiction or substance abuse problem of any kind—alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex—can be grounds for a sanction from your licensing board.
- Criminal Conviction: Finally, many state agencies hold members accountable for criminal convictions, even if those convictions have nothing to do with your career.
What Can Joseph D. Lento and His Team Do For You?
Maybe you're dealing with an unfair complaint. Maybe you did make a mistake, but your licensing board is being far too aggressive and trying to impose a penalty that your mistake just doesn't deserve. Maybe you just want to make sure your professional agency treats you fairly while you're being investigated. Whatever your situation, the Lento Law Firm can help.
Joseph D. Lento and his experienced Professional License Defense Team understand your situation. They've helped hundreds of other professionals through similar situations. They've studied the law. They keep up with the most recent changes and how precedents continue to grow and evolve. They also know the licensing system in Vermont. They know who to talk to and what to say to get you the very best possible resolution to your case. The bottom line is no one will fight harder to get you the justice you deserve than the team at the Lento Law Firm.