By the time you become licensed as an audiologist, you've already invested a ton of time and money into developing your career. You've spent four years earning your undergraduate degree, another four years earning your Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree, and the minimum number of supervised practice hours required to become licensed in your state. Your entire livelihood depends on your professional license, which is why it's a serious problem when allegations of wrongdoing lead to an investigation by the state licensing board. A simple misunderstanding or a lapse in judgment could mean losing your license—and effectively losing your career.
Unfortunately, licensing boards don't even have the same burden of proof as if you were on trial for a criminal act. This is why it's imperative to have an experienced professional license defense lawyer on your side when allegations jeopardize your license. Joseph D. Lento is an experienced attorney who has helped many clients protect their licenses in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. If you are an audiologist facing a disciplinary investigation, read on for critical information about how you should be prepared.
Whom Do I Answer to When a Complaint Is Filed Against Me as an Audiologist?
The state board that issued your audiologist license is the same board tasked with investigating complaints and deciding on disciplinary actions regarding your license. If you're licensed to practice in New Jersey, for example, you would answer to the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Advisory Committee; in Pennsylvania, it's the State Board of Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and in New York, it's the Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology division of the Office of the Professions.
What Accusations Could Cause Me to Lose My Audiologist's License?
Most misconduct claims that threaten an audiologist's license are based on a violation of the state's standards of professional conduct and/or a violation of the public trust. To that end, audiologists can lose their license under a variety of pretenses, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Gross negligence and/or incompetence. Mistakes in practice that damage or endanger patients can result in a loss of license.
- Fraud/misrepresentation. Examples may include insurance fraud, misrepresenting your credentials, false advertising, overcharging for services, etc.
- Sexual misconduct. Sexual harassment of patients and/or colleagues, inappropriate romantic relationships, etc., are just a few examples.
- Substance abuse. Using drugs and/or overindulgence in alcohol can potentially impair your ability to perform your job safely and can therefore jeopardize your license.
- Criminal convictions. If you are convicted for certain offenses, especially crimes of moral turpitude, your license could be in jeopardy. So could failing to report to the board if you have been arrested for, or convicted of, a crime.
I've Been Accused of Misconduct or Wrongdoing. How Will the Licensing Board Proceed Against Me?
Each state licensing board has its own procedures for investigating and disciplining complaints. However, most follow the same general pathway as follows when someone files a complaint:
- Investigation. The board typically begins by investigating the complaint to determine if it has merit and if there is evidence to support it. The investigation may include asking you to respond in writing, requesting documentation, interviewing witnesses, and so on.
- Consent decree. For complaints where there is sufficient evidence to back them up, the licensing board may attempt to avoid holding a hearing against you by offering to have you agree to a consent decree—a formal agreement between you and the state in which you admit to wrongdoing and voluntarily accept an agreed-upon disciplinary action.
- Formal hearing. In the absence of a consent decree, you'll be summoned to a formal hearing to answer the complaint against you. The hearing takes place either before the board itself or in front of an Administrative Law Judge.
- Board action. After the hearing, the board makes a final determination as to your guilt/innocence and decides on appropriate sanctions or penalties.
At several points in the disciplinary process, the board may decide to dismiss the complaint if the evidence is scant or agree to a lesser penalty that avoids revoking your license. A skilled professional license defense attorney can often intervene throughout this process to help you obtain a more favorable outcome.
Will the Board Automatically Revoke My Audiologist's License if the Complaint Against Me Is Upheld?
Not necessarily. While many offenses do result in a suspension or revocation of license, the board may opt to impose lesser penalties such as fines, restrictions on your activities, supervised probation, mandatory continuing education, or formal reprimands. Sometimes, such as in cases of substance abuse, the board might allow you to undergo an approved treatment program in lieu of losing your license. However, no matter what other options are available, it is important to remember that even the smallest of penalties can have a detrimental impact on your career because such penalties could appear on your public record. Potential employers, clinics, and patients might be less inclined to hire you or work with you if they search your license and see that you've been disciplined for misconduct. This is another reason why it's important to hire a professional license defense lawyer for any allegations of misconduct; a good attorney can often not only save your license but also minimize the impact on your record.
What Can an Attorney Do to Help Me if My Audiologist License Is in Jeopardy?
A professional license defense attorney can greatly reduce the chance that the complaint against you will cost you your license. A good attorney will:
- Give you clear insights as to the nature of the complaint and the evidence against you, so you know what to expect and how to prepare.
- Act as your official legal representative in all matters before the state licensing board.
- Gather evidence and witnesses in your defense and/or to disprove the complaint against you.
- Work on your behalf for the best possible outcome for your case, including dismissal of the complaint, disallowing of certain evidence, or negotiating for lesser sanctions to help you keep your license.
- Work to help you get your license reinstated if it has already been suspended or revoked.
If you are notified that someone has filed a complaint against you or that your audiologist license is being investigated, you should never take it lightly. Even seemingly minor offenses could still cost you your ability to practice unless you have strong legal representation. Don't risk your future by going it alone. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has successfully helped save the careers of many working professionals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to see how we can help.