It can be frustrating when someone files a formal complaint against you or your funeral home business. You work hard to do your job well. A complaint could put your career and your business in jeopardy. You need to take such complaints seriously and take legal action to protect your business and reputation.
We understand this might be a confusing, frustrating time right now in your life. That’s why it’s even more important than ever to have someone on your side you can trust to look out for your best interests. At Bertolino LLP, we want to be your personal legal adviser, guiding you through this process step by step.
The experienced attorneys at Bertolino LLP know how to build cases that produce desired results. They thoroughly understand Texas’ laws. Most of all, they want what’s best for you, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to help you obtain a favorable decision that addresses all your needs.
What Happens When Your License Is in Question?
The Texas Funeral Service Commission licenses professionals in the state of Texas and also reviews complaints. Once a complaint is received, an investigation is opened, and you will be asked to provide documentation. Once you have provided materials in your own defense, the executive director assesses administrative action or issues a penalty.
If you receive disciplinary action and do not agree with the action, you may request a formal evidentary hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) or Alternative Dispute Resolution. The complaint will then be prosecuted by an administrative law judge (ALJ) where you can present your case along with any witness testimony for evidence.
Common Disciplinary Issues Funeral Home Workers Face
There are various professionals in a funeral home who require a license. Typically, the funeral directors and the embalmers will need a license to perform their duties. Like any other licensed professional, there is a licensing agency and regulatory board that monitors and issues specific licenses to those offering funeral services.
When the board files disciplinary action against someone, it means there was an issue with their services or licenses. The most common issues for disciplinary action include:
- Criminal conviction
- Disciplinary action from another agency or state
- Failing to abide by the services contract
- Failing to file the death certificate within the proper time constraints
- Failing to properly complete the services contract
- Failing to properly handle human remains
- Filing false records
- Improperly keeping records
- Mental illness
- Not renewing a license
- Substance abuse
- Unprofessional and/or unethical conduct
There are many other issues that can arise with your license. If you have been contacted by the Texas Funeral Service Commission (TFSC) for alleged improper conduct under your license, it is best to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your legal options. If you do not respond properly or timely to a TFSC disciplinary request, you could face permit consequences.
Licensing Requirements for Funeral Directors
There are no federal requirements governing licensing for funeral services, which means each state is responsible for issuing its own laws and regulations. The state of Texas requires each candidate to meet their six requirements before obtaining a license:
- 18 years of age or older
- High school diploma or GED
- Attend and graduate from a mortuary college
- A minimum score of 75% on the National Board Examination
- A minimum score of 75% on the Texas Mortuary Law Examination
- Complete a provisional licensure period – each candidate must complete 45 cases under the direct supervision of an approved, licensed funeral director and/or embalmer.
Furthermore, you can also receive a license by reciprocity. This means that if you have a valid, active license in another state, you can apply for a license in Texas.
How to Renew a Funeral Service License
The Texas Funeral Service Commission (TFSC) requires that each applicant register and fill out the online application in order to renew a license. This account will stay active for all future renewals, and it will not be necessary to create a new registration each time you are required to renew your license. Always renew your license on time before it expires.
As long as there are no outstanding issues, the license renewal process is fairly straightforward. Though, there are a few circumstances that will prevent a funeral director or embalmer from being able to renew their license online:
- A licensee is in default of child support payments
- A licensee was convicted of a felony
- A licensee is not up-to-date on administrative penalty and/or fine payments
The above issues will not always prevent one from renewing their license, but they will need to submit a paper renewal, potentially pay additional fees, and possibly appear before a board or hearing committee.
How to Have Your Texas Funeral Service License Reinstated
If you have not renewed your license within the year grace period or there were any outstanding issues that prevented you from renewing your licenses, then you will have to go through the reinstatement process before continuing to practice. To have your licenses reinstated, one must go through a similar process as a new applicant. The reinstatement process requires:
- A completed application
- Retaking and passing the Texas Mortuary Law exam
- The payment of fees
- An FBI background check
- Completed CE (continuing education)
In addition to the above materials, an applicant may be required to submit all prior documentation from when they first received their license.
How a Criminal Conviction Could Affect Your License
A criminal conviction, whether a felony or misdemeanor, may lead to the revocation or suspension of your license. The Texas Funeral Services Commission has the right to deny, suspend, or revoke any application if they have a criminal record. Not all criminal charges will affect your license. Usually, only chargers related to your direct duties and responsibilities as a funeral service director or embalmer, will be causes of disciplinary action. The Texas Administrative Code §203.16 outlines what crimes are related to your duties as a funeral director or embalmer.
Under Texas Administrative Code §203.15(b), all applicants, and those currently licensed, must disclose any criminal convictions to the board no later than 30 days before the renewal process. If you are unsure of your eligibility, you can seek a Criminal History Evaluation Letter before beginning the application process.
After submitting a criminal record or disclosing a new criminal conviction, the committee can take one (1) to six (6) weeks to complete the review process and issue an opinion.
Responding to a Complaint on Your License
Once a complaint is filed and received by the TFSC, you will then be assigned a case number and assigned for investigation. Next, the complaint will be reviewed for proper jurisdiction and what statute or rule was violated. There are then three avenues that can be taken depending on the violation:
- If the TFSC finds it does not have proper jurisdiction, they will close the case and refer it to the proper agencies. This is a final disposition.
- If the complaint is found to not be in violation of any current rule or statute, then the case will be closed. This is a final disposition.
- If it is in the proper jurisdiction and a violation is found, then the notification of the complaint and initial request for documents will be sent to the respondent. Further action is needed.
Once a respondent is notified of the complaint, they will have 15 days to respond. The agency will conduct its own due diligence at the start of the investigation and send an Investigative Report (IR). The agency will send the IR to the respondent, and from that date, the respondent will have 30 days to respond to the IR. The respondent has two responses at this stage:
- Request a settlement (either formally or informally)
- Accept the penalty and sign the Agreed Order (this closes the case—final disposition).
If a settlement discussion does not end amicably with a signed Agreed Order, then the respondent will be given a notice of hearing, and the case will be assigned to a docket. From here, the case will be closed either by an Agreed Order or through a final Judicial Review by the court.
Our Attorneys Will Defend Your Funeral Service License
If you fail to respond in a timely manner to the Commission, you may face permanent consequences and you may be denied your right to a hearing. It is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as you receive the complaint and investigative report from the agency. Our lawyers can help properly defend your license and avoid further ramifications.Call Today
A law firm you can trust; a law firm that will stand up to the Board for you
Discover what Bertolino LLP can do for you. Contact us. Call (512) 476-5757and schedule a case evaluation with one of our experienced Austin attorneys. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can help you can help you restore order in your life. Assisting professionals just like you is what we do best. Learn more. Call today.Contact Now