You have worked hard to become a licensed dietician in Texas. Unfortunately, after successfully building a career and developing a solid client base, someone has filed a complaint against your license. Even if the complaint is groundless, you still must proactively take action to protect your license and career. Contact a dietician license defense attorney to help you deal with the complaint and any ensuing disciplinary proceedings.
Complaints Before the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation
The Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation (TDLR) licenses, monitors, and oversees complaints against licenses of various occupations, including dieticians. TDLR has an Enforcement Division that receives all complaints against dieticians and evaluates them to ensure that the agency has jurisdiction over the complaint and whether there is reason to believe that a violation of a law or rule has occurred. These complaints may come from individual consumers or TDLR staff members. If so, then the Enforcement Division opens a case for investigation.
The TDLR investigator typically will issue a notice of the complaint to the licensee, interview the complainant, licensee, and any witnesses, and gather any documentation relevant to the case. Once the investigator has completed the investigation, they prepare and submit an investigative report to a prosecuting attorney for review. The prosecutor will determine the disposition of the case from that point on.
If the prosecutor determines that formal enforcement action is not warranted in a particular case, they may issue a closing letter in the case. For instance, the prosecutor may take no further action on the complaint if there is insufficient evidence to support any violation. The prosecutor also may opt to issue an informal warning letter to the licensee concerning violations of laws or rules.
If the prosecutor determines that formal enforcement action is warranted, they will issue a Notice of Alleged Violation (NOAV) to the licensee seeking administrative penalties and potential sanctions. Administrative penalties are monetary fines, and sanctions can include a range of actions, including license suspension, probation, written reprimand, or license revocation.
When a TDLR prosecutor issues a NOAV to the licensee, they may issue a settlement offer in the form of an Agreed Order. Typically, the Agreed Order requires the licensee to do certain things, such as pay administrative penalties or complete additional education. The Enforcement Division then monitors the terms of the Agreed Order. It is up to the licensee to either accept the Agreed Order or ask for a hearing, which they must do within 20 days of receiving the NOAV.
If a licensee does not respond to a NOAV within 20 days of receipt, either by signing an Agreed Order or asking for a hearing, TDLR can issue a Default Order against the licensee. The Executive Director of TDLE issues Default Orders, which can contain administrative penalties or sanctions against the dietician’s license.
Administrative hearings occur before an administrative law judge (ALJ) assigned by the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). Both sides can present evidence on their behalf, and then the ALJ issues a proposal for decision (PFD) to all parties. The PFD is not a final order, but it contains the ALJ’s findings of fact and conclusions of law, as well as a recommended disposition of the case.
The Role of the Commission of Licensing and Regulation
The Commission of Licensing and Regulation considers all PFDs issued by ALJs in disciplinary cases under TDLR’s jurisdiction. All parties receive notice of the Commission’s meeting and can make arguments to the Commission concerning the PFD at the meeting. The Commission makes a final decision on the case and issues a Final Order to the parties.
Appealing a Final Order
If any party disagrees with an order of the Executive Director or Commission, they can file a Motion for Rehearing no more than 25 days after the issuance of the order. Parties must pursue a Motion for Rehearing as a prerequisite to seeking judicial review of a TDLR final order.
The Commission can grant, deny, or take no action on a Motion for Rehearing. If the Commission takes no action on the Motion within 55 days of the order, the Motion is automatically denied. Parties then are free to file a request for judicial review of the order in Travis County District Court.
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Potential Sanctions for Licensed Dieticians
Each occupation that TDLR regulates contains a separate schedule of sanctions for violations of various rules and laws. Violations by dieticians fall into one of four categories, ranging from Class A to Class D penalties, as follows:
- Class A – fine of $50 – $100
- Class B – fine of $500 – $3,000 and up to a six-month probated suspension
- Class C – fine of $1,500 – $4,000 and/or sanctions ranging from a one-year probated suspension to a revocation
- Class D – fine of $5,000 plus revocation
Most administrative violations receive Class A or B penalties, whereas unlicensed activities receive Class B or C penalties. In addition, violations related to unethical or unprofessional conduct typically result in Class C penalties. Finally, Class D penalties are reserved for violations such as failure to comply with an order of the Commission or Executive Director, obtaining or attempting to obtain a license by fraud or false representation, cheating on an examination, or failing to pay TDLR for a dishonored payment.
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Get the Advice You Need About Your Acupuncturist’s License
When you face the potential loss of your career and ability to earn a living, you cannot take unwarranted risks. Handling such a challenging situation on your own can have disastrous results. The dietician license defense lawyers at Bertolino, LLP can look at the facts surrounding your situation and determine the best strategy to protect your license. Call us today at (512) 515-9518 or get more information about us online.