Licensed nail technicians are in high demand across the country, and getting licensed was a huge step in advancing your career. That also means, however, that your career hinges on your license remaining active and intact. If you are facing disciplinary action against your license, whether for a simple misunderstanding, oversight, or lapse in judgment, it is important to understand the disciplinary process and what you can do to protect your livelihood.
The first step to take when your license comes under scrutiny—and possibly the most important step—is to hire an experienced professional license defense attorney to help you navigate the process. Without skilled legal counsel, you could face disciplinary action that could very well end your career. Attorney Joseph D. Lento helps many licensed professionals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York who are dealing with license challenges. If you are one of them, the Lento Law Firm has compiled the following key information so you can be prepared for what's ahead.
Who will I answer to if my nail technician license comes under scrutiny?
The same state licensing board that granted your license will oversee the disciplinary procedure in the event you are charged with a violation. In the State of New Jersey, nail technicians are licensed through the New Jersey State Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling. In Pennsylvania, it's the State Board of Cosmetology; and in New York, it's the Nail Specialty division of the Department of State.
What could lead to me losing my nail technician's license?
Nail technicians can face penalties for a number of different offenses, most of which deal with violating the state's rules or the board's code of ethics. These are the most common examples:
- Sanitation violations. Nail salons must follow strict sanitation protocols to protect their clients from infection. This includes regular cleaning of floors, surfaces, and sanitizing utensils. These are the most common violations that can result in disciplinary action. Repeat offenses could lead to your license being revoked.
- Permitting unlicensed employees to work in your salon. If you allow unlicensed employees to do work that requires a license, your own license could be revoked.
- Gross negligence/incompetency. Performing your duties in a way that causes harm to patients can lead to loss of license.
- Fraudulent activities. Examples might include false advertising, overbilling clients, charging for services not rendered, etc.
- Substance abuse or addiction. Substance abuse can affect your ability to do your job safely. In some cases, the board might require that you receive treatment as a condition for keeping your license. In others, the board may suspend or revoke your license.
- Failure to renew your license. This is equivalent to doing people's nails without a license, and it can result in barring you from being licensed in the future.
What is the disciplinary process?
Although each state board has its own variations on disciplinary procedures, most license disciplinary processes follow a pattern similar to the following:
- Complaint. Most disciplinary proceedings begin with a complaint filed against the licensing board. In many cases regarding nail technicians, this complaint originates with a failed inspection of your workplace. In others, a complaint may be filed by a customer, colleague, etc.
- Investigation. To determine if the complaint is supported by evidence, the board will open an investigation. The board will usually appoint an investigator to interview witnesses, review records, and gather evidence. The board can decide to drop the case if there is not enough evidence to support the complaint. In cases of failed inspections, you may also avert further action by correcting the violations within an appropriate amount of time.
- Consent order. If sufficient evidence is present to support the complaint, the board may offer to negotiate with you for a consent order as an alternative to summoning you to a formal hearing. A consent order is a formal agreement in which you admit to wrongdoing and agree to be subject to the recommended disciplinary actions. This is not always the best option, but it can be an effective solution if the agreement includes a path to reinstatement. A good license defense lawyer can often negotiate these terms into consent orders.
- Formal hearing. The matter moves to the formal hearing stage if the investigator finds sufficient evidence and there is no consent order. This hearing can be held before the board directly or before an Administrative Law Judge. You may be represented by an attorney at the hearing.
- Final determination. At the conclusion of the hearing, the board will decide whether to suspend or revoke your license and whether any other disciplinary action should be taken.
An experienced license defense attorney can assist you in this process to improve your chances for a favorable outcome. An experienced attorney can work with the board members to resolve any issues at multiple stages of the process, including getting them to agree to lesser sanctions or dismissing the complaint for lack of evidence.
Am I guaranteed to lose my nail technician's license if the board decides to discipline me?
No. Revoking your license is a last resort, and while it can and does happen often, the board may be convinced to impose a variety of lesser penalties that don't involve revoking your license. Examples include:
- Temporary suspension. The board may suspend your license until you satisfy certain criteria, at which point it will be reinstated.
- Fines. The board may penalize you financially.
- Probation/license restrictions. The board may place you under supervision or bar you from doing certain tasks.
- Conditional agreements. You may be able to keep your license on the condition that you agree to recommendations by the board, such as receiving treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism.
- Formal reprimand/censure. The board may place a reprimand in your professional file.
Even if you are allowed to keep your license, note that any disciplinary action taken by the board, no matter how minor, becomes a matter of public record and can have a negative effect on your career by discouraging customers and potential employers from working with you. A good license defense attorney can often negotiate to have the complaint dismissed in order to keep your record clean.
Can I resolve the issue with the licensing board without hiring an attorney?
You can always interact with the licensing board on your own behalf, but this is not usually in your best interests. Licensing boards have broad authority to impose discipline and a low burden of proof to determine whether the complaint against you is valid. This is because the licensing board's primary focus is on public safety, not protecting your interests. Because the board is actively seeking grounds to validate the complaint against you, anything you say or do on your own behalf could potentially be used against you.
Without an attorney, you likely will not be able to present the best possible defense or negotiate for a more favorable result--and you will therefore be at the mercy of the board to determine the future of your career. Conversely, hiring an experienced attorney greatly improves your chances for a favorable outcome because the attorney will work to ensure your rights are protected and that your side is heard.
What should I do if I am contacted by the licensing board regarding a complaint or a violation?
If you are contacted by the licensing board and told that an investigation is underway, you should immediately seek out experienced professional license defense representation. It is important to remember that anything you say or do during this process could be used against you, so it is crucial to have an attorney on your side who can protect your interests and ensure your rights are being defended.
What can an attorney do to protect my career?
An attorney who specializes in license defense can help you achieve a positive outcome in disciplinary proceedings against your license as a nail technician. These are just a few ways that an attorney can help you:
- Assume the role of your legal representative when interacting with the state licensing board
- Review the accusations against you and their implications
- Strategize with you to develop a compelling and convincing response to the complaint
- Procure witnesses and gather evidence to support your side of the story
- Negotiate with the board at several points for a positive resolution, including dismissal of the complaint, reduced penalties, or a consent order with favorable terms
- Defend you at a formal hearing, if one is called
What about minor violations that do not result in losing my license? Do I need an attorney then?
Don't make the mistake of assuming that any violation is "minor." Unlikely though it may seem, even minor offenses can be grounds for suspending or revoking your license. Additionally, don't be lulled into complacency by the idea that your penalties will be minor--even minor penalties may become a matter of public record, potentially harming your professional reputation. While penalties are sometimes unavoidable, hiring an experienced license defense attorney gives you the best chance of having minor violations dismissed and keeping your public record untarnished.
Doesn't hiring an attorney imply guilt?
Certainly not. Licensing boards are used to dealing with attorneys, and hiring one does not suggest to the board that you are guilty of an offense. If anything, it demonstrates that you take the complaint seriously and will improve your chances of working out a favorable resolution.
Can an attorney help get my license reinstated if it was already revoked?
In many cases, yes. It is much easier to reinstate a suspended license than one that has been revoked, but the state usually offers criteria for qualified candidates to get their licenses reinstated. You may need to reapply for your license or meet certain conditions, which may include:
- Submitting a written explanation of why you are requesting reinstatement and why the board should take it into consideration
- Paying all outstanding fines and fees
- Demonstrating that the circumstances leading to disciplinary actions are no longer an issue (for example, completion of a substance abuse treatment program if your license was revoked for substance abuse)
- Submitting to any action plan the board considers necessary as a requisite for restoring your license
A license defense attorney can help you by coordinating the reapplication process, interfacing with the board, and negotiating for the best possible terms for reinstatement.
How soon after being notified of an investigation into my license should I call an attorney?
The sooner you act, the better. Involving an attorney early in the process gives them time to review your case, develop a solid response to the complaint, and begin negotiating with the licensing board. If you wait until you're summoned to a formal hearing, you'll be coming in on the defensive because the board will have already gathered evidence against you. A good attorney can help you get on a more solid footing early in the process and could even save you from having to go to a hearing.
Keeping your professional license intact is vital to continuing your career as a nail technician. In many cases, a single violation or accusation of wrongdoing can put your license at risk. Take steps early to protect your career--hire an experienced professional license defense attorney at the first sign of trouble. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to see how we can help.