Massachusetts consumers have millions of interactions every month with 330,000 or so licensees of the boards of registration, usually to the mutual satisfaction of both parties. However, when a consumer alleges that a licensee violated standards of professional conduct, he or she has a right to file an application for complaint with the Division of Professional Licensure. In many cases the Division can help you understand your rights as a consumer and direct you to the best resource for obtaining satisfaction. In cases where it can be proven that a licensee is not safe to continue to practice the trade or profession, the Division may elect to open a complaint and conduct an investigation.
Grounds for complaints can include, among other things, negligence resulting in physical harm to a consumer, misuse of client funds or records, failure to adhere to acceptable standards of practice, fraud, practice while impaired by alcohol or drugs, sexual misconduct, fraudulent procurement of a license, and practice while license is lapsed. The boards do not handle disputes over fees and some disputes are best resolved informally, by the courts or by other agencies. Only when the Division determines that it has probable cause to investigate a matter will an application for a complaint result in an investigation.
When the Office of Investigations receives a written application for complaint, they determine if the incident warrants an investigation. If the incident described in the application does not fall under the Division's jurisdiction or there are not sufficient legal grounds for a complaint, then the applicant will receive information about other resources that may be available to him/her.
If a complaint is opened, the assigned investigator may personally interview the complainant, the licensee, and other appropriate persons. With the advice of legal counsel, the appropriate board of registration will review the completed investigation and decide whether the complaint suggests possible professional misconduct which justifies an informal or formal hearing. The complainant is notified in writing about how the board intends to proceed on the complaint.
If the board decides that an informal conference is appropriate, the complainant and the licensee will be asked to explain the circumstances of the complaint to the board. After hearing the explanations, the board may recommend a resolution or schedule a formal hearing. It is up to the board to determine whether or not there are grounds for a formal hearing.
In many cases, as an alternative to a formal hearing, the board will attempt to resolve a complaint by negotiating an agreement. However, if the board decides that a formal adjudication is appropriate, it will issue an "Order to Show Cause" requiring that the licensee respond as to why his or her license should not be revoked, suspended or have any other action taken against it The order describes the allegations made in the complaint. The licensee has 21 days to respond to the order. At a formal hearing, the licensee may be represented by an attorney and may present witnesses. The board may subpoena witnesses. You may be asked to testify. Witnesses may be questioned by board members, the hearing officer, the board's prosecuting attorney, the licensee, or the licensee's attorney. If the evidence presented proves misconduct, the board may impose discipline. Disciplinary actions include suspension or revocation of a license, a reprimand, a fine, a probation, or an order to bring facilities into statutory compliance, depending on the authority of the board.
If you have a complaint against a licensee, you can download an Application for Complaint form to fill out and send back to our Office of Investigations. If you are not sure if a licensee's actions fall into the category of misconduct, you can call our investigator who handles that particular profession at (617) 727-7406.
If you pursue civil court proceedings against a licensee to recover monetary damages, you may attempt to use the board's final determination of improper conduct or malpractice as evidence.
For additional information about the rules and regulations of individual boards, select an individual board and then select "Statutes and Regulations" on that board's page.
You may also purchase board regulations by contacting the State House BookStore:
State House Bookstore
State House - Room 116
Boston, MA 02133