As a licensed professional working in South Carolina, you've spent countless hours learning what you need to know to be able to earn your license. This probably included a substantial amount of practical training, and on top of all of that, you most likely had to pass a rigorous test before the state would grant you your license or certification. For many professions you also need to stay current with mandatory continuing education if you want to be able to renew your license. In return for all of this time and effort – not to mention money – South Carolina has granted you a license that enables you to make your living practicing your profession in the state.
More than 17% of all jobs in South Carolina require some form of state license or certification. Licensing is coordinated by the South Carolina Division of Professional and Occupational Licensing Boards, which is made up of a number of licensing boards that cover professions such as Accountancy, Medicine, Nursing, Engineers & Surveyors, Pharmacists, Dietitians, Cosmetologists, and others. In total, there are more than 40 categories of licenses that issue through these boards. In addition, teachers in South Carolina are certified by the South Carolina Department of Education.
Each of these professions has its own set of licensing requirements and disciplinary standards. For the most part, however, they follow very similar procedures when it comes to reviewing and acting on disciplinary matters. All of them are in a position to be able to issue a range of sanctions that can differ from one profession to another but that generally can include suspension or termination of a professional license.
That's why it's so important for you to act quickly if you learn that a formal complaint has been filed against you with your licensing body. To ignore these kinds of situations is to risk losing your license and your ability to make a living for no reason other than inattention. And while you may not know how to react or what to do when you receive a notice of a complaint, there is someone who does: professional license attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team. They have helped professional licensees all over the United States defend themselves against disciplinary and other types of complaints that put their professional licenses at risk, and they can help you too.
The Lento Law Firm: Professional License Defense in South Carolina
Professional license attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team have years of experience helping professional license holders all over the United States protect their rights and defend their licenses in professional disciplinary situations. They understand how the disciplinary process works and have experience conducting investigations on behalf of their clients to find helpful information and witnesses that can be used to defend against a disciplinary proceeding. They are skilled at reviewing and responding to formal complaints, acting as their client's representative with investigators and the licensing body, and representing professional license clients in meetings and hearings.
There are many different reasons that disciplinary complaints are filed against professional license holders, and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team has experience with the vast majority of them. Health professionals, for example, may face discipline for allegedly failing to manage prescription medication properly, improper record-keeping, or for making mistakes with billing or insurance procedure codes. Professionals of all types can be disciplined based on allegations of sexual harassment or sexual abuse. Drug or alcohol abuse while on the job can also result in a disciplinary proceeding. And being convicted of a crime – or failing to report a conviction – can also lead to disciplinary proceedings.
The time to reach out to professional license attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team for help is as soon as you can after you are notified that a complaint has been filed against you. Time is not on your side in these kinds of situations. Helpful documents can become more difficult to find as time passes, and witnesses who may be able to provide testimony in your favor may become hard to locate, or their memories may fade if you wait too long to find them. Bringing Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team on board sooner rather than later can make all the difference between a strong and effective defense and one that is less successful.
The Disciplinary Process for Licensed Professionals in South Carolina
South Carolina is home to hundreds of thousands of licensed professionals in more than 40 professions, including more than 75,000 nurses, 12,000 physicians, and 55,000 teachers. The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation's Office of Investigation and Enforcement (OIE) investigates the complaint and provides its conclusions to the relevant board that manages the particular type of license involved. (Teacher complaints are separately handled by the Department of Education.) In terms of procedures, most disciplinary complaints in South Carolina will follow this format:
The complaint needs to be in writing and will be reviewed first to make sure it provides all of the information required to make sure that it describes the type of issue that the relevant board has jurisdiction to discipline. The OIE may contact the person who filed the complaint for additional information if needed. If the complaint doesn't raise an issue that the particular board has disciplinary authority over, it may be dismissed; for example, and complaint that a patient was kept waiting in a doctor's office for 45 minutes past their scheduled appointment time is unlikely to result in a disciplinary proceeding if the patient was not endangered as a result.
Complaints that appear to raise issues that a licensing board regulates will typically then be assigned to an investigator.
Once the investigator has the complaint, the professional license holder will receive written notice that the complaint has been filed. The license holder will then have a chance to respond to the complaint. This is an excellent time to contact professional license attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team for help. They can help you review the complaint, can discuss the situation with you, help find information and evidence to support your defense, and craft a strong and effective response to the complaint that can help make a difference in the entire investigation process.
Whether you file a response to the complaint or not, the OIE investigator will pursue the investigation. That means they may contact and interview you, your co-workers, and the complaining party. They can also subpoena work and personal records and can even visit your home and workplace. The process is likely to feel very invasive because it is. But having the help of an experienced professional license attorney-advisor can make things go much more smoothly, allowing you to meet your obligation of having to cooperate with the investigation while acting as an intermediary between you and the investigator.
When the OIE investigator completes the investigation, there will be a meeting that will include one or more professionals related to the appropriate licensing board. They will review the results of the investigation and decide whether the matter should be dismissed; whether more investigation is needed; whether a letter of caution should issue; or whether to move forward with a formal complaint. Their recommendation then proceeds to the full licensing board, which can choose to dismiss the matter, issue a letter of caution, or move forward with a formal complaint.
In many cases where a formal complaint is issued by the licensing board, the board will also offer to enter into a consent agreement with the license holder. A consent agreement typically includes an agreed statement of facts and an agreed disposition of the complaint that includes some form of disciplinary action against the license holder.
Entering into a consent agreement can sometimes be a wise choice, but other times, particularly if you have a strong defense to the allegations, you may be exposing yourself to unnecessary levels of discipline. Being able to rely on the experience and judgment of a seasoned professional license attorney-advisor can make all the difference in these kinds of situations. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team understand how the consent agreement process works. They can often help you make the best choice for your situation, especially when they have been involved in your disciplinary matter from the beginning.
Matters that don't resolve themselves in consent agreements will then move to a hearing stage. The hearing is conducted much like a trial, with the licensing body presenting its evidence against the license holder first and the license holder then presenting their side of the case.
It can be enormously helpful to be represented at the hearing by an experienced professional license attorney-advisor who has helped defend many other licensees in many other very similar situations. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team have that kind of in-the-courtroom experience and can help make sure that the evidence that the licensing board tries to introduce against you is fairly admitted, that testifying witnesses for the board are carefully and thoroughly cross-examined, and that your own evidence is presented in a clear and compelling way.
The board may issue a ruling at the time the hearing closes or may adjourn and issue it sometime later. If the board finds against you, it will also determine the sanctions that it will impose against you. At some point, the board will issue a final order that summarizes its findings and its ruling, whether the ruling is to dismiss the case or to find that you committed some or all of the acts that you were accused of in the formal complaint. If the ruling goes against you, you will have 30 days to appeal it to South Carolina's Administrative Law Court.
Why You Need the Lento Law Firm to Help Protect Your License
You are skilled at what you do for a living and have spent countless hours learning what you need to know and developing the skills necessary so that you can become licensed as a professional in your line of work. That said, you probably have very little experience defending yourself against a disciplinary complaint. So it makes sense to work with a seasoned professional who has that experience. Professional license attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento has that experience. He and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team can help you at virtually every stage of the disciplinary process, including:
- Reviewing the complaint and helping you understand what it can mean to your license and your professional life;
- Helping you find evidence and witnesses to support your defense;
- Communicating on your behalf with the OIE investigator and board representatives throughout the process;
- Advising you in the event you are offered a consent agreement;
- Representing you forcefully and effectively at the hearing;
- Helping you review the result and, where appropriate, prepare and file a timely appeal.
Areas the Lento Law Firm Serves in South Carolina
While the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team can represent license holders living or working anywhere in South Carolina, there are a number of large metropolitan areas in the state where many licensed professionals work. Many of these professionals are in the healthcare field, and some of those major metro areas and hospitals include:
The Greenville metropolitan area has a population of more than 900,000 people. Some of the hospitals in the area are Prisma Health Greenville Memorial Hospital, Prisma Health Patewood Hospital, Saint Francis Downtown Hospital, and Bon Secours St. Francis Eastside.
More than 800,000 people live in the Columbia metropolitan area. Well-known hospitals in this part of the state include MUSC Health Columbia Medical Center Downtown, Prisma Health Baptist, Parkridge and Richland Hospitals, and the Lexington Medical Center.
Close behind the Columbia metro area is Charleston, with a population of more than 780,000. The area includes hospitals such as Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, MUSC Health University Hospital, Roper Hospital, Trident Medical Center, and East Cooper Medical Center.
While Myrtle Beach itself has fewer than 40,000 residents, the surrounding metro area has more than ten times that many. Hospitals located in this region include Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, Conway Medical Center, and Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital.
Closing out South Carolina's largest metropolitan area is Spartanburg, with an area population of more than 300,000. It is home to the Spartanburg Medical Center - Mary Black Campus, the Spartanburg Medical Center, and the Pelham Medical Center.
Offenses or Allegations That Might Jeopardize Your Professional License
While each license type has its own particular requirements that can vary greatly from one license to another, there are many common reasons why professionals are disciplined. Typical charges include:
- Fraudulent practices. This can include overbilling a patient or a client for work not performed, time not spent, or materials not used to perform a particular task. It can also include incorrectly coding health care procedures to extract higher payments from insurers.
- Abuse, Gross Negligence. Healthcare workers who are in close contact with patients can be accused of abuse when the patients suffer injuries while in their care. Similarly, if a professional's negligence injures or endangers another person, they may be disciplined as a result.
- Sexual Misconduct/Inappropriate Relationships. These charges can range from sexual assault involving non-consensual sexual contact with a client or patient to sexual misconduct when a professional takes advantage of a close relationship with a client to workplace sexual harassment.
- Inappropriate Handling of Medications. Professionals whose license permits them to prescribe or dispense prescription medication can be disciplined for failing to do so properly or abusing their privileges and taking the medications for their own or others' use.
- Inaccurate Record Keeping. Many professions have strict record-keeping requirements that are enforced in order to protect patients and clients. Failure to follow these requirements can result in professional discipline.
- Substance Abuse/Addiction. If a professional works while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they can be disciplined for substance abuse violations. In many of these cases, sanctions against the professional may be reduced if the professional enters treatment for substance abuse.
- Criminal Convictions. Most professional licenses require the license holder to notify the licensing board of certain types of criminal convictions. The conviction itself may result in a disciplinary proceeding, and a failure to notify is often considered a separate violation.
The Lento Law Firm: Professional License Defense for Licensed Professionals in South Carolina
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team have years of experience advising and defending license holders across the United States. They understand what the disciplinary standards are, how the disciplinary process works, and the best ways to protect the rights of license holders who find themselves defending themselves against professional discipline violation charges. They represent a wide range of professional license holders, including:
- Medical doctors and physician's assistants
- Nurses and nurse practitioners
- Engineers and surveyors
- Physical therapists
- Psychologists and other mental health professionals
- Real estate brokers and agents
- Insurance agents
- Accountants and CPAs
- Cosmetologists and barbers
- Other license professionals
If you have been notified that a professional discipline complaint has been filed against you or that your licensing entity is bringing charges against you, don't wait – call Attorney Joseph D. Lento as soon as possible at 888.535.3686, or use the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team online contact page to set up a confidential consultation. The sooner you reach out, the better your chances will be of keeping your license.