The Consequences of Disciplinary Actions Against Physical and Occupational Therapists Going Beyond Sanctions

When working as a physical or occupational therapist in Texas, a single complaint against you can be enough to derail your career completely. The consequences of disciplinary actions are far-reaching and may go well beyond the sanctions that the Executive Council of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Examiners (the Council) can impose. 

In this situation, you need an experienced physical and occupational therapist license defense lawyer to protect your rights, license, and reputation. By getting legal representation, you can also better understand the types of sanctions you may face in disciplinary proceedings and the larger consequences for your career. 

The Texas Boards of Physical and Occupational Therapy Examiners

The Texas Board of Physical Therapy Examiners (“the PT Board”) is one of the two boards that fall under the umbrella of the Council. The PT Board receives and processes all complaints concerning physical therapists licensed in Texas. 

The other board that falls under the purview of the Council is the Texas Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners (“the OT Board”). Like the PT Board, the OT Board handles all complaints against licensed occupational therapists (OTs) in Texas. 

Sanctions by the PT Board 

When the PT Board finds that licensees have violated a rule or law that governs their profession, it may issue various sanctions in the context of disciplinary proceedings. These sanctions may occur in the context of an agreed order or after a contested hearing and ruling by an administrative law judge (ALJ) from the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). Under 22 Tex. Admin. Code §344.1, potential sanctions may include:

  • Reprimands;
  • Payment of administrative fines, not to exceed $200 per day, based on the following schedule:
    • First offense – $100 – $1,000;
    • Second or subsequent offense – $200 – $5,000;
  • Tutorial hours;
  • Additional education;
  • Placement on probation;
  • Suspension of license; and/or
  • Revocation of license.

If the PT Board places individuals on probation, it may require them to regularly report to the PT Board regarding the issues that led to the discipline. It also may require them to limit their practice to particular areas and/or continue or review continuing professional education until the PT attains a satisfactory skill level in certain areas under Tex. Occ. Code §453.351. The sanctions’ severity depends on the circumstances, extent, nature, and gravity of the violation(s).

How Disciplinary Action Goes Beyond PT Board-Imposed Sanctions

While the sanctions that a physical therapist can receive from the PT Board during disciplinary proceedings can be severe, the impact of disciplinary proceedings can go well beyond those sanctions. For example, even if sanctions are not severe, the physical therapist may experience discipline by their employer or even job termination. In addition, having a disciplinary history can make it more difficult for the physical therapist to find employment in the future, as discipline records are open to the public. 

If the conduct involved a breach of the standard of care for patients or caused harm to patients, then the physical therapist could face a medical malpractice lawsuit or related civil litigation. These lawsuits can be costly, increasing medical malpractice insurance premiums and/or causing high out-of-pocket costs. Along with lawsuits, disciplinary actions are reportable to medical malpractice insurance carriers, increasing premiums. Particularly egregious conduct concerning patients also could result in criminal charges, leading to fines, incarceration, and a potentially permanent criminal record. 

Job loss, disciplinary records, civil lawsuits, and criminal charges can all affect your reputation and, as a result, your ability to continue working as a physical therapist in the future. In addition, patients may be reluctant to seek your services, and you may have difficulty maintaining a business. These factors can lead to an inability to support yourself using your education and license, which may force you to seek another career path.

Finally, the PT Board reports all disciplinary actions to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), a database of disciplinary actions against healthcare practitioners. Physical therapy licensing boards in many states have access to the information in this database. The PT Board also reports disciplinary actions to the Examination, Licensure, and Disciplinary Database (ELDD) that the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) maintains. This database notifies other states of disciplinary action against Texas physical therapists. As a result, Texas physical therapists cannot simply move across state lines and practice without other states being aware of their disciplinary history. Any disciplinary action that the PT Board reports to the ELDD results in immediate termination of the individual’s current Compact Privileges and a prohibition on PT Compact participation for the next two years. 

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Sanctions by the OT Board

Under 40 Tex. Admin. Code §374.1, the OT Board may take four different levels of disciplinary action against occupational therapists. The four levels are as follows:

  • Level I: Order and/or Letter of Reprimand or Other Appropriate Disciplinary Action – This level of sanction may include, but is not limited to, community service hours. 
  • Level II: Probation–The licensee may continue to practice while on probation. Being on probation may include restrictions on practice and continued monitoring by the Board during a specified period or other conditions.
  • Level III: Suspension—A suspension provides for a specific period during which the licensee may not practice as an occupational therapist. Upon completing the suspension period and all requirements, the OT Board reinstates the individual’s license.
  • Level IV: Revocation—Occupational therapists may no longer practice when the OT Board revokes their licenses. Once 180 days from the date of the revocation order have passed, the former licensee may petition the board for the issuance of a license. However, they may be required to retake the licensing examination to obtain a new license.

This code section also contains a schedule of sanctions that the Board uses to determine the appropriate sanctions for violating the laws and rules that apply to occupational therapists. 

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How Disciplinary Action Goes Beyond OT Board-Imposed Sanctions

Many of the consequences for occupational therapists that go beyond OT Board-imposed sanctions are the same as those that physical therapists experience, as discussed above. In addition, occupational therapists who are subject to disciplinary action by the OT Board have their names and license numbers published regularly. As a result, this information is readily available to the public and may result in difficulty in obtaining and retaining clients. This situation can affect an occupational therapist’s ability to earn a living and sustain occupational therapy practice.

Likewise, occupational therapists may experience adverse effects at their places of employment when they are subject to disciplinary action. Their employers may reprimand or discipline them or even terminate their employment. If occupational therapists lose their job due to disciplinary action, they may have challenges finding alternate employment, which may have adverse consequences for their financial situation. 

In some cases, behavior by an occupational therapist could lead to civil litigation. For instance, sexual harassment by an occupational therapist could result in a civil lawsuit, as could a violation of patient confidentiality. In addition, in some cases, criminal charges may result from violating the rules or laws that apply to occupational therapists. 

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 physical and 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. Contact the lawyers of Bertolino LLP today by calling (512) 515-9518 or visiting us online.

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