You have worked hard to become a licensed occupational therapist in Texas. Unfortunately, a patient or a third party has filed a complaint against your license after successfully building a career. Even if the complaint is groundless, you still must proactively take action to protect your license and career. Contact an occupational therapist license defense attorney to help you deal with the complaint and any ensuing disciplinary proceedings.
Complaints About Occupational Therapists
The Texas Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners (“the OT Board”) is a division of the Executive Council of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Examiners. This entity licenses occupational therapists (OTs) and occupational therapist assistants and handles complaints about individuals working in these professions.
All OTs must follow the Texas Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners’ Occupational Therapy Rules (“OT Rules”), found at 40 Tex. Admin. Code § 361 et seq., as well as the Occupational Therapy Practice Act (“OT Act”), found at Tex. Occ. Code § 454.
40 Tex. Admin. Code § 374.3 outlines the procedures the OT Board must follow when receiving a complaint about an OT. Within ten days of receipt, the OT Board typically notifies the OT of the complaint unless doing so would jeopardize an undercover investigation. The OT has ten days to respond in writing to the notice of complaint.
The OT Board then prioritizes complaints according to the following considerations, from highest to lowest priority:
- 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.
Outcomes of Complaints
Following an appropriate investigation, the OT Board generally makes one of the following determinations:
- The complaint’s scope is beyond the board’s authority and is handled by another entity. Accordingly, the committee may refer the complainant to an appropriate entity.
- There is insufficient evidence to substantiate that a violation of the Act or rules has occurred, thus closing the investigation.
- Evidence indicates a possible violation did occur, and further investigation is needed.
- Evidence indicates a violation did occur, and disciplinary action is not warranted.
- Evidence indicates a violation did occur, and disciplinary action is warranted.
An OT typically can accept the sanctions recommended by the OT Board by signing an Agreed Order. The OT Board then can approve the Agreed Order by a majority vote or deny the Agreed Order and forward the case for further action.
The OT Board often sets informal conferences in disciplinary cases to allow the parties to clarify issues, stipulate to facts, exchange witness lists, and perform other tasks to reduce the number of contested issues to be heard at an administrative hearing. The OT also can request a settlement conference, which can involve a limited presentation of evidence. At the end of the settlement conference, the Executive Director may make recommendations for informal disposition of the complaint, find a lack of evidence, order the case closed, or refer the case for additional investigation.
If the parties cannot reach an agreement to resolve the matter and the OT Board wishes to move forward with disciplinary action, the case goes to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). SOAH will assign an administrative law judge (ALJ) to hear the case.
Sanctions for OTs Under Texas Law
Under 40 Tex. Admin. Code § 374.1, the OT Board may revoke or suspend a license or reprimand or impose probationary conditions if an OT violates the OT Rules or the OT Act. The OT Board divides violations of the OT Rules or Act into four progressively severe levels of disciplinary action, as follows:
- Level I: Order and/or Letter of Reprimand or Other Appropriate Disciplinary Action (including but not limited to community service hours).
- Level II: Probation–Probationary status, which may include, but is not limited to, restrictions on practice and continued monitoring by the board during the specified period.
- Level III: Suspension- A period during which the licensee may not practice. If the licensee completes all requirements during that period, they will receive an automatic reinstatement of their license.
- Level IV: Revocation–A determination that the licensee may not practice as an OT. The former licensee may not petition for reissuance of a license until at least 180 days have passed since the date of the final license revocation order.
The OT Rules also contains a schedule of sanctions that specifies the minimum, intermediate, and maximum discipline for different violations. The OT Board must utilize this schedule in all disciplinary actions.
In determining the appropriate sanctions for a particular violation according to this schedule, the Board must consider the following factors:
- The seriousness of the violation, including:
- The nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of the violation; and
- The hazard or potential hazard created to the health, safety, or economic welfare of the public;
- The history of previous violations;
- The amount necessary to deter future violations;
- Efforts to correct the violation;
- The economic harm to the public interest or public confidence caused by the violation;
- Whether the violation was intentional; and
- Any other matter that justice requires.
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Get the Advice You Need About Your Occupational Therapist’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 occupational 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.