The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (“LLR”) promotes public welfare through its regulation of certain professions and occupations governed by licensing boards. Most of the time, the only licensing issue you’ll face is a routine renewal.
In other situations, though, an accusation of professional misconduct can put your license and reputation at risk. These accusations can be confusing at first, and it’s difficult to know how to respond to a complaint or inquiry from an LLR licensing board. That’s when you need assistance from an attorney familiar with the process. Burnette Shutt & McDaniel licensing lawyers have skills you need to help protect your livelihood.
LLR covers nearly 50 professional and occupational licensing boards. These include:
- Architectural Examiners
- Athletic Commission
- Auctioneers’ Commission
- Barber Examiners
- Boiler Safety Program
- Building Codes Council
- Cemetery Board
- Chiropractic Examiners
- Contractor’s Licensing Board
- Counselors, Therapists, and Specialists
- Engineers & Surveyors
- Environmental Certification
- Funeral Service
- Landscape Architectural Examiners
- Liquefied Petroleum Gas Board
- Long Term Health Care Administrators
- Manufactured Housing Board
- Massage & Bodywork Therapy
- Medical Examiners
- Occupational Therapy
- Physical Therapy Examiners
- Podiatry Examiners
- Pyrotechnic Safety
- Real Estate Appraisers Board
- Real Estate Commission
- Residential Builders Commission
- Social Work Examiners
- Soil Classifier Advisory Council
- Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
- Veterinary Medical Examiners
Issues may come up for people licensed in these professions and occupations in the form of disciplinary actions based on administrative errors, such as failure to timely renew a license, or personal reasons, like struggles related to substance use. These issues can be brought to the licensing board’s attention through complaints filed by patients, clients, or coworkers.
Help with South Carolina Licensing investigations
The investigative process begins with a complaint. LLR reviews the complaint to determine whether it alleges a violation. If it does, the case is assigned to an investigator.
Within 30 days of the case being assigned, the investigator will notify you in writing that a complaint has been filed and will give you a chance to respond. The investigator may conduct an onsite inspection, issue subpoenas for records, and conduct interviews. Investigations are generally complete within 180 business days.
During the investigation, we can help draft your written statement, request review of records, communicate with the investigator on your behalf, help identify witnesses to support your position, obtain statements or affidavits from those witnesses, and request additional documents informally or through the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act.
Of course, the goal of providing information is to demonstrate that you have not committed any misconduct or that there are mitigating circumstances for what took place.
The next steps: an Investigation Review Conference and beyond
If, at the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator has concerns about a possible violation, he or she will present findings to an Investigation Review Conference (IRC). The IRC will determine if additional information is needed and decide whether the findings warrant a recommendation that the licensing board proceed with a formal complaint, a letter of caution, or dismissal. The IRC process is an internal process and neither you nor your attorney participates. You will be informed of the outcome by letter.
If your licensing board decides to file a formal complaint, you may be given an opportunity to sign a Consent Order setting forth the facts, statutory violations, and sanctions. The Consent Order is then presented to the board to accept or reject. You may also consider entering a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), where you and the licensing board consent to the facts but agree to hold a separate hearing on possible disciplinary action, if any. A third option is to go forward with a full hearing before the board.
How our licensing attorneys can help
Burnette Shutt & McDaniel can assist in negotiating an MOU or Consent Order. If you decide to go forward with a full hearing, we can represent you before the licensing board by calling witnesses, cross-examining witnesses, getting your documentary evidence into the record, and arguing points of law and fact.
After all sides have put in their evidence, the board goes into Executive Session to discuss the matter. During Executive Session, no one is allowed to be in the room with the board except their staff and legal counsel. The board will come out of executive session and issue the decision, which could be a finding that a statutory violation has occurred and disciplinary action is appropriate. The board also can dismiss the complaint in whole or in part.
Because a full hearing before a licensing board is a “contested case” under the South Carolina Administrative Procedures Act, you can appeal the decision to the South Carolina Administrative Law Court. You only have 30 days to appeal, though, so that decision needs to be made quickly. We can assist you with that as well.
That first moment when you receive notification that a complaint has been filed against you and an investigation is coming can be scary and discouraging. Contact us, and our experienced attorneys will provide you guidance and advocate for you at each stage of this process to protect your license, livelihood, and reputation.