1. What is the function or purpose of the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (“BPOA”)?
To protect the health, safety and welfare of the public from fraudulent and unethical professionals in the 29 professions and occupations under its jurisdiction. The BPOA does this through its Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation through its main office in Harrisburg and its satellite offices in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Scranton.
2. Which professions and occupations are regulated by the BPOA?
The professions and occupations are divided into two (2) categories: Health-Related professions and occupations and Business-Related professions and occupations.
The Health-Related State Licensing Boards and Commissions handle investigations and complaints regarding:
- Massage Therapists
- Medical Doctors
- Nursing Home Administrators
- Occupational Therapists
- Physical Therapists
- Speech-Language and Hearing Professionals
- Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors
The Business-Related State Licensing Boards and Commissions handle investigations and complaints regarding:
- Certified Real Estate Appraisers
- Crane Operators
- Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists
- Funeral Directors
- Landscape Architects
- Vehicle Manufacturers, Dealers and Salespersons
- Navigators who travel on the Delaware Rivers and its Navigable Tributaries
3. What do I do if I receive a telephone call or on-site visit by an investigator either to my home or place of business?
Any professional who is contacted by a BPOA investigator should not panic or feel compelled to speak with the investigator. Remember, no matter how nice an investigator or prosecutor may be during the initial contact, these individuals are employed by the Commonwealth to investigate a complaint against you.
Before deciding to cooperate or speak with a BPOA investigator or prosecutor, it is wise to obtain legal counsel from an attorney who understands licensing investigations. Remember, each board has different rules and regulations, including the types of sanctions that may be administered. It is highly recommended that every professional consult with an attorney before making potentially damaging statements to anyone employed by the BPOA.
4. Will every complaint result in a hearing or formal charges?
No. Each case is viewed on a case by case basis. Many cases are resolved after the investigation is over, either by way of dismissal or by a negotiated consent agreement.
5. When will I have a hearing?
Hearings generally take place when the parties are unable to resolve the complaint through negotiations.
6. Is a consent decree always made public?
No. Some matters remain private because of the issues involved but some matters become public matters. For healthcare professionals it is very likely that the sanction will be reported to the National Practitioners Data Bank. This information is accessed by hospitals, insurance companies and others.
7. What if I am a licensed healthcare provider with an alcohol or drug problem that is reported to the BPOA?
The Commonwealth has programs to assist impaired professionals. We can help the licensee in navigating an agreement for entry into a program. Successful completion of the program typically prevents further disciplinary action against the licensee. However, it is important for you to understand your rights if you agree to an alternative program and the physical or psychological examinations that may be required or requested by the Commonwealth. We can assist you in making the best decision for you.
8. If a case cannot be resolved, can the licensee obtain documents and other discovery in the case?
Discovery is very limited in administrative agency proceedings. An attorney who understands the process can obtain certain types of discovery prior to the hearing. This way, the licensee has the information in advance and the ability to properly evaluate their situation.