You have completed your education and earned your professional license to work as a physical or occupational therapist in Texas. However, a complaint against you can potentially threaten your career. You have too much at stake to try and handle a complaint and potential disciplinary action on your own. Instead, call an experienced physical therapist license defense lawyer to assist you in protecting your rights, your license, and your reputation. By getting legal representation, you can also better understand the types of sanctions you may face in disciplinary proceedings before the Executive Council of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Examiners (ECPTOTE).
The Texas Board of Physical Therapy Examiners
The Texas Board of Physical Therapy Examiners (“the PT Board”) is one of the two boards that fall under the umbrella of ECPTOTE. The PT Board receives and processes all complaints concerning physical therapists licensed in Texas.
Investigation and Complaint Processing
Upon receipt of a complaint, the PT Board will perform an investigation and decide whether to proceed with disciplinary proceedings concerning the physical therapist who is the subject of the complaint. Under Tex. Occ. Code §343.36, the PT Board must serve the physical therapist (PT) with notice of the complaint before initiating any disciplinary proceedings. This notice will provide the PT with at least ten days to respond to the complaint in writing.
Under Tex. Occ. Code §343.40, the PT Board may hold an informal conference to simplify the proceedings, decide contested issues when possible, and generally prepare for a contested hearing. Informal conferences are not mandatory and are held at the discretion of the Executive Director of the PT Board.
The PT also may present evidence, including statements, documents, and witnesses, to try to formally resolve the case. In some cases, an informal conference may lead to an Agreed Order, which is a negotiated settlement of the case between the PT and the PT Board. A majority of the PT Board members must approve all Agreed Orders.
If the parties are unable to resolve the complaint informally, the PT Board may start formal disciplinary proceedings. Under Tex. Occ. Code §343.23, the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) conducts all administrative hearings in contested cases before the PT Board.
Disposition of Contested Cases
The PT Board may issue various disciplinary actions when a PT violates a rule or act, either through an Agreed Order or after a hearing and recommendation by an administrative law judge (ALJ) from SOAH. Potential sanctions may include:
- Issuance of reprimands;
- Imposition of administrative penalties;
- Placement on probation;
- Suspension of license; and/or
- Revocation of license.
If the PT Board places a PT on probation, it may require the PT to regularly report to the PT Board about the issues that led to the discipline. It also may require a PT to limit their practice to areas prescribed by the PT Board and/or continue or review continuing professional education until the PT attains a satisfactory level of skill in certain areas under Tex. Occ. Code §453.351.
The Texas Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners
The Texas Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners (“the OT Board”) is the other board that falls under the purview of ECPTOTE. The OT Board oversees all complaints against licensed occupational therapists (OTs) in Texas.
Investigation and Complaint Processing
Within ten days of receiving a complaint, the OT Board will create a timeline for completion of the investigation of the complaint and notify all parties to the complaint of that timeline. The OT Board prioritizes complaints based on their level of severity by classifying them as follows:
- Those indicating that credible evidence exists showing a violation of the Occupational Therapy Practice Act involving actual deception, fraud, or injury to clients or the public or a high probability of immediate deception, fraud, or injury to clients or the public.
- Those indicating that credible evidence exists showing a violation of the Occupational Therapy Practice Act involving a high probability of potential deception, fraud, or injury to clients or the public.
- Those indicating that credible evidence exists showing a violation of the Occupational Therapy Practice Act involving a potential for deception, fraud, or injury to clients or the public.
- All other complaints.
Under 40 Tex. Admin. Code §374.3, completion of the investigation occurs when the OT Board staff determines that there is either:
- insufficient evidence to demonstrate a violation of the rules or law, or a board order, or
- sufficient evidence to demonstrate a violation of the rules or law, or a board order, and drafts formal disciplinary charges.
The OT Board gives written notice to the licensee before starting any formal disciplinary action. In the notice, the licensee has ten days to respond and show that they are following the laws or rules that they are alleged to have violated.
As with the PT Board, the OT Board also may opt to hold an informal conference with the parties to narrow the contested issues and resolve the complaint outside the contested hearing process. The parties may negotiate an Agreed Order to resolve the complaint by agreement, either through an informal conference or through other negotiations.
If the parties are unable to resolve the case, the OT Board can refer the case to SOAH for a contested administrative hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ will hear evidence from both sides and issue a recommended decision for the OT Board to consider.
Levels of Disciplinary Action
40 Tex. Admin. Code §374.1 recognizes four different levels of disciplinary action against OTs and OT assistants. The four levels are as follows:
- Level I: Order and/or Letter of Reprimand or Other Appropriate Disciplinary Action – The licensee may be required to perform community service hours, but also may be subject to other disciplinary action as warranted.
- Level II: Probation–The licensee may continue to practice while on probation, which may include, but is not limited, to restrictions on practice and continued monitoring by the Board during a specified time period.
- Level III: Suspension–A specified period during which the licensee may not practice as an OT or OT assistant. Upon the successful completion of the suspension period and all requirements, the Board reinstates the individual’s license.
- Level IV: Revocation–A determination that the licensee may not practice as an OT or OT assistant. After 180 days from the date the revocation order becomes final have passed, the former licensee may petition the board for reissuance of a license, but they may be required to retake the licensing examination.
This code section also holds a schedule of sanctions that the Board uses to impose sanctions for different types of violations of the laws and rules that apply to OTs.
Count on Bertolino LLP, to Defend Your Physical or Occupational Therapist License from Disciplinary Action
When a complaint threatens your ability to earn a living, you need a seasoned occupational therapist license defense attorney on your side. We will defend you against these attacks on the credentials you have worked so hard to earn. Get in touch with the lawyers of Bertolino LLP today by calling (512) 515-9518 or visiting us online.