Most state licensing boards allow customers or patients to file complaints against a professional. There is no doubt that learning of a complaint that has been filed against you is unpleasant. However, it is important to remember that there is a wide variety of potential outcomes – ranging from an outright dismissal of the complaint to the revocation of your license. The outcome of your complaint depends, in part, on the particular allegations and on the complaint process.
Your Complaint will be Screened
Before your complaint is investigated or any potential discipline is imposed, the complaint against you will be screened by the licensing board. Some licensing boards assign the complaint to an investigator for screening and others have it screened by intake officials. Regardless of who does the screening, the complaint will be analyzed to determine if an investigation should go forward. Specifically, the screeners will determine:
- If the subject of the complaint is within the authority of the licensing board to decide;
- If the complaint has been filed within the statute of limitations; and
- If the complaint would result in discipline to the licensee if everything asserted by the complainant was true. If the complaint would not result in discipline to the licensee even if all of the complaint allegations were true then there is no potential consequence to the licensee and no reason to investigate the complaint.
Your Complaint will be Investigated
If the screener determines that the licensing board has the authority to decide the complaint, that the complaint was filed within the statute of limitations, and that there is a possibility that the licensee should be disciplined then the complaint will enter the investigation stage.
An investigator from the licensing board will request information from the complainant, the licensee, and anybody else who may have witnessed the event or have information pertinent to the event. In many cases the investigator will also require documentation about the alleged event, such as a medical file, or picture of electrical work that was completed. In some cases consent of the complainant may be necessary before documentation can be provided.
A Decision Will be Made Regarding Your Complaint
Once the investigation is complete, the licensing board will make a decision regarding your complaint. The board may dismiss the complaint, require a licensee to take corrective action, or suspend or revoke the professional’s license.
You May Have the Right to Appeal
If the investigation results provide for significant penalties against you then you may have the right to request that the licensing board review the complaint or you may be able to appeal the investigator’s decision to the state trial court.
Remember, you have the right to retain counsel at any stage of the complaint process and you have the right to ask questions of the licensing board and to provide any information that you wish for them to consider. If your case is not dismissed during the screening process then it is important to defend yourself and not to disregard the complaint – the potential outcomes are just too important to ignore.