As a practicing professional, you likely worked very hard to obtain and maintain your license. In Florida, there are dozens upon dozens of regulated professionals, ranging from cosmetologists to surgeons and pharmacists. Regardless of the position, facing an administrative complaint can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences one can face in the workplace.
However, there are options for defending and appealing these types of accusations – and experienced Ft. Lauderdale administrative attorneys can help preserve your constitutional right to earn a living.
There are two main sets of laws that pertain to the professional licensure appeals process. On a grander scale, the U.S. Constitution affords all the right to notice and an opportunity to be heard when facing an adversarial situation, which is where the administrative hearing process comes in. Secondly, the Florida Administrative Procedure Act (APA) applies to govern the technical and procedural aspects of process – and is found in Section 120 of the Florida Statutes.
In general, the APA is applicable to any administrative process involving an executive-branch agency, including any of the following:
- Department of Health
- Department of Children and Families
- Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
- Department of Education
- Department of Corrections
Of course, this list only represents a small fraction of the agencies subject to the procedures found in the APA. However, for the state’s nurses, teachers or doctors, this list represents an important set of executive-branch agencies responsible for licensure mandates, revocations and suspensions – all of which must be conducted “by the book” and in compliance with the APA.
Handling a Complaint
When a professional’s license is in jeopardy, he or she has a right to thorough, informative notice of the issue. For professionals licensed by the Board of Health, for instance, the process would begin upon the receipt of an official Administrative Complaint – which is sent via U.S. Mail, often certified and requiring the recipient’s signature.
In this Complaint, the licensed professional should be made aware of the nature of the allegations, the agency rules and/or statutory provisions at issue and the instructions to the recipient as to how to proceed.
Under Section 120.57 of the Florida Statutes – as referenced by the APA – a licensee facing adverse action has an unequivocal right to a hearing on the merits of the case. A request for a hearing must be made in writing and within 30 days of the receipt of the complaint. When facing suspension or licensure, a hearing will be conducted before an administrative law judge who must allow both the licensee and the Department the opportunity to present evidence and elicit testimony.
One of the primary tasks of the administrative law judge is to interpret a specific Department’s internal rules and regulations. Fortunately, Section 120.57 protects licensees from the imposition of “vague” or “arbitrary” rules, and a judge is prohibited from relying on Department rules that “vest the agency with unbridled discretion.”
At the conclusion of the proceedings, the judge will take into consideration all evidence and information provided by both parties and will make a decision over whether to impose license restrictions, revoke the license or permit the individual to continue practicing.
For certain professionals, there may be additional options for resolving the matter, such as an “Informal Hearing,” which is a proceeding available within certain departments. To learn more about how to best handle your situation, contact attorney Michael L. Feinstein today: (954) 767-9662.