After years of instruction, completing your apprenticeship, and passing the licensing exam, you have put in a significant amount of both time and money to become a licensed funeral director in Pennsylvania. Ironically, all it may take is one complaint or mistake to undo all that hard work in an instant. The State Board of Funeral Directors holds its licensees to high standards of ethical conduct and professional excellence. An allegation that those standards have been violated could trigger an investigation that could culminate in having your license suspended or revoked. No license--no livelihood.
The best way to avoid this kind of outcome is to hire an experienced Pennsylvania licensed defense attorney at the first sign of trouble. Early intervention by a skilled attorney can make a huge difference in your case. When allegations of misconduct threaten your livelihood, Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his professional license defense team have the experience needed to get you the best possible resolution, greatly increasing the chances of keeping your license intact. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Types of Allegations Could Endanger Your Funeral Director's License?
The State Board of Funeral Directors has established a code of conduct that every licensee is obligated to follow. If you fail to comply with those regulations, it could compromise your license. The most common reasons for a license investigation include:
- Gross negligence and incompetence. The most common type of negligence involves mishandling remains--for example, comingling ashes with the ashes of someone else, unethical treatment of the remains, improper embalming, burial at the wrong site, etc.
- Misconduct. Examples of such unacceptable behavior might include exploiting emotionally susceptible clients through "upselling" services, misusing customer funds, or even subjecting them to verbal/emotional abuse.
- Fraudulent practices. Examples of fraud include inflating costs for customers, deceptive advertising, and defrauding insurance companies.
- Substance abuse/addiction. Excessive alcohol or drug use can also put your license in jeopardy, especially if you're reported as being high or intoxicated on the job.
- Criminal convictions. Being convicted for certain crimes (especially crimes of moral turpitude) could cost you your license.
How the Disciplinary Process Works in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has a streamlined process by which members of the public can file complaints against funeral directors and other professionals licensed by the state. These complaints are filed with the state Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA). Once a complaint has been filed, the disciplinary process moves through a set of stages as follows.
Once the BPOA receives a complaint, they assign an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) to look for corroborating evidence of the complaint. The investigation process may include interviewing the complainant and relevant witnesses, reviewing documents, etc. You may also be asked to submit a written response to the complaint along with any evidence that proves your side of the story. If the BEI investigation turns up insufficient evidence to support the complaint, the Board may dismiss the complaint and resolve your case.
If the BEI investigation indicates that the complaint is valid, the Board may present you with an offer of a consent agreement as an alternative to hauling you in for a formal hearing. A consent agreement is effectively an admission of guilt in which you voluntarily submit to whatever disciplinary actions are recommended by the Board in the agreement. This is not always the best course of action, but if disciplinary action is inevitable, it may give your attorney the opportunity to negotiate for more lenient sanctions--including allowing you to keep your license or including provisions and conditions for reinstatement of your license.
If the complaint is not dismissed through negotiation or by lack of evidence, or if no consent agreement is reached, you will be summoned to appear before an official state examiner at a formal hearing, where you must show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against your license. You may have an attorney present with you to represent you at this hearing. When the hearing concludes, the Board will issue their final decision on your guilt or innocence as well as any appropriate disciplinary actions--up to and including revoking your license.
Why You Need an Attorney's Help
When it comes to allegations of misconduct in license investigations, you have no guarantee of presumed innocence. The State Board of Funeral Directors takes all allegations of wrongdoing seriously, and they are committed to protecting the public interest. They only need to determine your guilt or innocence based on a preponderance of the evidence, and they have broad authority to decide on disciplinary actions against you. In short, you're at a disadvantage from the moment a complaint is filed.
Hiring an experienced licensed defense attorney can level the playing field and give you a fighting chance at minimizing the damage to your career. An attorney can help you respond to the complaint in a way that may lead to an early dismissal of the charges. They can also gather evidence and witnesses to support your defense, and they can negotiate with the Board at multiple points for dismissal of the complaint or lenient penalties. Even if no agreement can be reached, an attorney will know how to present your case most effectively before the hearing examiner and protect your rights under state law. In many cases, the intervention of a good attorney can make the difference between keeping your funeral director's license and losing it.
Don't let a simple mistake, misstep, misunderstanding, or false allegation derail the career you've worked so hard to build. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his legal team have a long track record of success with disciplinary matters, and they can improve your chances for a more favorable outcome. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation.