You studied to become an occupational therapist because you wanted to help people get better. You've invested both time and money in your education and field experience, you've sat for the grueling NBCOT exams, and you've gone to great efforts to qualify to be licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Occupational Therapy Education and Licensure. Now, your career hinges on your license as well as your ability to earn public trust day after day.
That's why it can be so devastating to learn that your license is under investigation and could be revoked.
It may be as simple as a misunderstanding with a patient, or it may be a temporary lapse in judgment that someone reported to the state. Whatever the case, without proper legal representation, you could be facing serious disciplinary action from the Board, including possibly having your license stripped from you--and, by extension, your career.
If you are an occupational therapist in Pennsylvania facing allegations of misconduct, attorney Joseph D. Lento is a professional license defense attorney with extensive knowledge and experience with cases like yours. He and his team can greatly improve your chances of getting through the disciplinary process with your license to practice intact. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Allegations Could Put My Occupational Therapist License in Jeopardy?
Most state licensing boards for occupational therapists hold their licensees to high ethical and professional standards as outlined by the Code of Conduct established National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Most allegations that could threaten your license have something to do with one or more violations of this Code of Conduct. Common examples include:
- Fraud. Examples of fraud include upcoding procedures on insurance claims, billing for services not provided, misrepresenting your credentials, altering patient records, false advertising, etc.
- Harmful behavior. The NBCOT has established a strict policy that prohibits any actions which could potentially put the health or safety of patients in danger. If your conduct has harmed a patient in any way, you could be facing disciplinary action.
- Substance abuse. Addiction to alcohol and drugs can impair your ability to practice as an occupational therapist and is unacceptable under the NBCOT Code of Conduct.
- Criminal convictions. Being convicted of certain crimes may disqualify you from holding and occupational therapist license--especially crimes of moral turpitude or crimes related to your profession. (You can also face disciplinary action for failing to disclose a criminal conviction to the Board, regardless of the offense.)
- Unprofessional conduct. Examples include inaccurate or untruthful communication with clients or employers, abusive or unprofessional behavior, etc.
- Failure to protect patient confidentiality. Any violation of HIPAA rules for safeguarding patient health or personal information can jeopardize your license.
What Does the Disciplinary Process Look Like?
Pennsylvania has created an efficient system that permits citizens to lodge complaints against any state-licensed professional, including occupational therapists. The Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) fields these complaints and oversees the disciplinary process. When the BPOA receives a complaint concerning you, that complaint will move through the process in the following stages.
To begin, the BPOA will appoint a Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) investigator to investigate and gather corroborating evidence related to the complaint. This usually involves talking with the complainant and/or any witnesses, document subpoenas, etc. You might also be asked to submit a written response to the complaint. If it is judged that there is insufficient proof for validation, the BPOA may dismiss the case at this point. Otherwise, it moves to the next stage.
If the BEI investigator finds significant evidence against you, the Board may offer to negotiate a consent agreement in lieu of beginning an official hearing. By deciding to accept this arrangement, you are willingly submitting to any disciplinary action recommended by the Board. Although signing a consent agreement isn't always the most desirable outcome, it may be your best option in order to mitigate potential repercussions such as disciplinary action or license revocation. With strategic negotiation by an attorney, a consent agreement can minimize the negative impact on your career and even include provisions for reinstating your license if necessary.
In the absence of a consent agreement, you will be summoned to attend a formal hearing in front of a state examiner and show cause why your occupational therapist license should not be revoked. You can have an attorney appear with you and act as your official advocate for this hearing. After careful deliberation, the Board will come to a decision regarding whether sanctions should be issued against you—up to and including revoking your license.
Why You Need a Pennsylvania License Defense Attorney
The investigations and hearings conducted by the BPOA are complex, high-stakes matters that could have a dramatic impact on your career. The State Board of Occupational Therapy Education and Licensure has broad authority to issue discipline based only on a preponderance of the evidence (meaning they only have to be convinced that you have more likely than not committed the offense, rather than proving it beyond a reasonable doubt). In other words, you have no guaranteed presumption of innocence, which puts you at a disadvantage as soon as a complaint is filed against you.
With the help of an experienced Pennsylvania license defense attorney, you will be better equipped to answer the complaint against you. A good lawyer will work to protect your rights, create a compelling response to the allegations, procure witnesses and facts that bolster your case, and negotiate with the BPOA for leniency or dismissal of charges—possibly even avoiding the need for a formal hearing. If a hearing is necessary, your lawyer can present the strongest possible defense on your behalf to get you the most favorable outcome possible.
You've worked too hard to establish your career as a Pennsylvania occupational therapist to have it sabotaged by unfair allegations. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team can greatly improve your odds of keeping your license and saving your career. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.