Has something changed in your life? Have you moved? Did you change jobs? Did you sell all or part of your business or hire a new licensee? If the answer is yes, the regulatory agency that issued your professional license probably wants to know about it.
Professional regulatory agencies generally require licensees to list and maintain a current address of record. The agencies will use this address to send complaints, Orders, notices of inspection or investigation, and subpoenas. Whether it’s the Board of Pharmacy, the Medical Board, or the Barber Board, it undoubtedly has a regulation that requires its licensees to notify it when the address changes. Failing this simple compliance chore can lead to catastrophic results.
When trouble is brewing, it is common for agencies to send notices to licensees by certified mail to the address of record. If the licensee has moved, the post office will likely return the mail as “unclaimed.” What comes next? Well, often it is an Order of Revocation by default, because most agencies also have regulations that state that the failure to respond to a complaint is an admission of the alleged violations.
In Jones v. Flowers, the Supreme Court dealt with this very issue. While the court found that an agency that had received a post office notification that its mail was unclaimed should have done more to try and reach the respondent, it indicated that “more” could be as little as sending the letter via regular mail, too. It is no coincidence that agencies send notices by regular and certified mail. If you miss both, a court may find that the agency nevertheless satisfied its constitutional duty to provide you notice and an opportunity to be heard.
Professional license defense is never more frustrating than when competent professionals’ reputations are stained by “unprofessional conduct” that amounts to nothing more than a clerical error. Many agencies require their licensees to notify them of changes to employment. At annual renewal time you check a box and put your new employer’s name and address, and presto! A few weeks later you receive notice (assuming you did not fail to change your address of record) that you’ll receive an administrative civil penalty of $50. Depending on your state, when someone researches your license on the Board’s website, a little dot or checkmark of shame will appear indicating that you’ve been subject to disciplinary action or—if you’re lucky—a non-disciplinary letter of concern or other reprimand.
Similarly, if your business requires that you designate a responsible person such as a Medical Director or Pharmacist-in-Charge, your agency most certainly requires a prompt notice when that person changes. Regardless of whether you timely replaced the responsible licensee, you may receive a civil fine for not promptly keeping the agency up to date.
If you own a permitted facility, such as a medical practice, a clinic, or a dispensing pharmacy, you likely have disclosed the ownership structure in your application. Changes to ownership that meet statutory thresholds (e.g. percentage of ownership, corporate officers) could impact your continuing eligibility. State laws vary greatly regarding issues such as the corporate practice of healthcare (unlicensed ownership) or self-referral laws like the Stark Law. Most states therefore also have regulations requiring prompt notification of meaningful changes to ownership or control.
If you hold professional licenses in several states, the annoyance of this housekeeping increases exponentially. Every state will have different requirements and deadlines. A good rule of thumb will be to determine what the strictest requirements are for each notice requirement in each state where you are licensed and make those the benchmark for compliance everywhere.
Boesen Snow’s clients trust the firm to ensure that they are aware of and comply with agency notification requirements. Often a notification may involve the need to explain something that has gone wrong such as receiving discipline in one state, which you must now disclose to all of the states where you are licensed. Boesen Snow will assist you with presenting the story of whatever has changed with you or your business in the best light and on time, whether it’s one state or fifty. Contact us to learn more about getting this burden off your shoulders.
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