Considering the time and money you've spent on your education, the stress of sitting for NBCOT exams, and the effort in qualifying for licensure, becoming a New Jersey occupational therapist was no small feat. And yet, to you, it was worth it because you now get to make a decent living while helping people get better. The problem is your livelihood hinges on your license, and because occupational therapists must adhere to strict regulations and ethical standards, all it may take is a single complaint against you to put your license in jeopardy.
The New Jersey Occupational Therapy Advisory Council has a responsibility to protect the public. They have been given broad authority to impose disciplinary action against occupational therapists who violate their standards, and they have a fairly low burden of proof to find you guilty. If the Board decides to revoke your license, your entire future could be thrown into doubt. That's why it's crucial to hire an experienced New Jersey professional license defense attorney at the first sign of trouble.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience in New Jersey law and professional disciplinary matters. He and his team will work on your behalf for the best possible resolution, greatly improving your chances of keeping your license intact. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Does the Disciplinary Process Look Like?
Almost every disciplinary proceeding against one's license begins with a formal complaint. In New Jersey, any member of the public can file a complaint with the Occupational Therapy Advisory Council. Most complaints against occupational therapists are filed by patients, former patients, colleagues, insurance companies, etc. Once a complaint is filed, the disciplinary process goes through a certain set of stages as follows.
Request for Response
If a complaint is filed against you, the Board will begin by notifying you and asking you to respond to the complaint in writing. It's important that your reply be both convincing and supported by evidence, as this will heavily influence whether or not the Board continues to investigate.
After the Board receives a complaint, they will appoint a Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC) to delve into it further and look for evidence to validate the complaint. An investigator will be assigned to interview the complainant and any witnesses, review documents, and conduct other research. You may also be asked to give a statement under oath.
If the Board's investigation uncovers significant evidence of wrongdoing, they may offer to negotiate a consent order with you as an alternative to calling a formal hearing. A consent order is a legal agreement in which you voluntarily submit to the recommended disciplinary action from the Board. Since the order is binding, it may not be the best course of action in every case; however, if disciplinary action is inevitable, a consent order may be a viable resolution, especially if your attorney can negotiate terms for keeping your license or a pathway to reinstatement.
If a hearing is required, you must appear before an Administrative Law Judge, preferably with an attorney present, to show cause why your license should not be revoked. Both parties will provide arguments and supporting evidence, after which the Judge shall make a determination on disciplinary procedures and recommend it to the Board. If discipline is recommended, the penalties can range from a formal reprimand and/or fines to a full suspension or revocation of your occupational therapist license.
What Allegations Could Put Your Occupational Therapist License in Jeopardy?
Licensed occupational therapists in New Jersey must adhere to the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) Code of Conduct, which expects a high standard of ethics and professionalism. Accusations that may threaten one's license are typically associated with failures to meet the standards imposed by this code. Common examples include:
- Fraud. Examples of fraud include "upcoding" services on insurance claims, billing for services you didn't provide, misrepresenting your credentials, altering patient records, etc.
- Harmful behavior. Being accused of any behavior that could jeopardize a patient's wellbeing could cost you your license.
- Substance abuse. Engaging in drug and alcohol abuse can put into question your capability to perform as an occupational therapist, particularly if you show signs of being under the influence while at work.
- Criminal convictions. Being convicted of certain crimes, particularly crimes of moral turpitude or crimes related to your field can disqualify you from holding an occupational therapist license. You can also be disciplined for failing to disclose a criminal conviction to the Board.
- Failure to protect patient confidentiality. If you neglect to comply with HIPAA regulations when storing a patient's private information or medical records, then it could lead to the revocation of your license.
Why You Need a New Jersey License Defense Attorney
Despite any expectations of fairness on your part, the fact is you're at a disadvantage from the moment someone files a complaint against your license. The licensing Board offers no guaranteed presumption of innocence, and they can find you guilty based only on a preponderance of the evidence (not conclusive proof). Remember, their first priority is to protect the public, not their licensees.
To level the playing field and give you a fair chance at protecting your license, you should consult with a qualified attorney who has specific experience in New Jersey license disciplinary proceedings. Your attorney can provide knowledgeable and experienced legal counsel, advise you on the best course of action, represent you during negotiations or hearings, and work for a favorable resolution to your case. Your chances of keeping your license go up considerably with the right attorney in your corner.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has a track record of success helping professionals whose licenses are placed at risk. If you're a licensed New Jersey occupational therapist accused of misconduct, take action now to protect your future. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.