Today, we’re going to talk about the North Carolina Physical Therapy Board, better known as the North Carolina Board of Physical Therapy Examiners. So, we want to discuss the investigative process—the complaint process, whatever nomenclature you prefer. Essentially, what happens when a complaint is filed against a physical therapist in North Carolina.
Initially, the North Carolina Board of Physical Therapy Examiners will start the investigative process that involves the Investigative Committee. This committee is made up of the Executive Director, in addition to a board member assigned by the Chairman of the Board or Chairperson of the Board. Their obligation is to determine if probable cause exists to find out if there is any legitimacy to the complaint. Now, the Executive Director and the board member comprising this Investigative Committee will be assisted by the attorney for the board and, in addition, one of the investigators for the board.
During the initial part of the investigation, if the Board’s Investigative Committee finds out that there’s not enough probable cause to believe that the complaint has any legitimacy, then they will dismiss it. If they don’t and they find that probable cause exists to believe that the complaint has enough legitimacy to go forward, then they will proceed.
They will have what’s called an informal meeting with the licensee. Now, this is just the initial part of the process. It’s the first opportunity for the licensee to present any documentation to the board—anything that they want the Board Investigative Committee to consider before coming up with an initial recommendation.
So, you go through that, and the recommendation could be, “Alright, after looking at all this other stuff that the licensee has, now we’re going to dismiss it.” Or, they could say, “No, we still feel that there’s something here, and we’re going to implement this penalty.” It could be a written warning, public discipline, suspension, or revocation. There’s a variety of recommendations they could come up with.
Now, if you get back something on a recommendation after going through the initial informal meeting with the Investigative Committee that you don’t like, say you get a public reprimand with a fine and you’re like, “Well, I don’t want to take that. That’s going to be out there on their board’s website and it’s not going to come off, I don’t want that.”
Then you have a couple of options within 20 days of getting that. You can request to speak with them through informal communications, basically negotiate with them and try to get something less. Present as much mitigation as you can, including letters of recommendation. If this is an issue involving any sort of substance use or abuse, then show any rehabilitation that’s been done in that respect. In addition to potentially some other mitigation factors, which we won’t get into here. Then negotiate with them through their attorney.
If you’re represented by counsel, your counsel will negotiate with the Board’s attorney and try to come up with a better outcome for you. The other option is to request a contested hearing. That’s always an option. In cases like this, you could request a contested hearing and then also request to negotiate with them. It happens fairly often where, “Hey, I want to have a contested hearing, but I’m also still trying to work things out with them.” That’s not uncommon.
If you can’t get anything worked out with the Board and you can’t come to a resolution that you’re happy with, then you can always have a contested hearing. Present your side of the story, say either “This didn’t happen, and here’s my evidence showing that it didn’t”, or, “Here’s mitigation showing why the penalty that you’re recommending should not be implemented because it’s not as bad as it appears on first glance or even second glance.”
So, that’s the long and short of the process. I hope everybody has a fantastic day, and thank you so much for doing what you do.