State licensing of professionals has both benefits and consequences for professionals. The biggest benefit provided to professionals is the duty of the board to keep unlicensed and unethical people out of the profession. However, it is important to remember that the ethical rules that apply to prospective licensees of your profession also apply to existing licensees. If a complaint is filed against you and you are found to have committed misconduct then the licensing board has the responsibility to penalize you for that misconduct. A wide range of penalties is available to most licensing boards with license suspension and revocation being the most significant of the possible penalties.
When Your License May be Suspended or Revoked
The effects of a license suspension or revocation can be dramatic. Financially, the licensee will be unable to work at his or her chosen profession. Despite all of the education, experience and dedication that it took to become licensed, the licensee must find another way to earn an income. Emotionally, many licensees identify their self worth by their profession. A doctor who is unable to treat patients, a lawyer who is unable to help clients, or an architect who is unable to design buildings may suffer significantly. Therefore, license suspensions and revocations are saved for the most significant disciplinary cases.
Each licensing board of each state has its own rules for when a license may be suspended or revoked. License suspension and revocation are the most extreme measures that can be taken by a licensing board and are saved for the most significant transgressions. Generally, a license may be suspended or revoked when the licensee has committed a crime or when someone has been put in physical danger because of the licensee’s actions. Sexual assault, negligence in the care of a patient or client, drug or alcohol abuse, or fraud may be grounds for suspension or revocation, for example.
Other Potential Penalties
For less significant violations of a license, a licensee may face lesser penalties such as:
- Public admonishment;
- Required attendance at continuing education courses;
- Community service requirements; or
- Limitations on the license.
Licensees may face these type of penalties for conduct such as intimidating patients or clients, refusing to provide services on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin, or conducting work that was not authorized by the patient or client.
It is important to remember that all penalties are public information. In most cases, an existing or potential customer can access information about you on the licensing board’s website. That information generally includes any complaints that were filed against you if the licensing board found against you and imposed a penalty. Therefore, in addition to the penalties described above, you may face a significant reduction in business as people decide to hire other professionals who have not been penalized for misconduct.
If you face a possible disciplinary action by a licensing board then it is important to contact your state licensing board and to understand the possible penalties that may be imposed against you so that you can mount a proper defense.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.