Protecting Your Professional License

A professional license represents the culmination of years of perseverance and sacrifice. It carries with it not only the key to your livelihood, but a new world of responsibilities. For many professions, these responsibilities are governed and enforced by the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL).

DOPL is a Utah state agency tasked with the licensing, investigation, and regulation of roughly 60 different professions within the state. From plumbers and dieticians, to funeral directors and midwives, DOPL acts as gatekeeper and watchdog in an effort to preserve the legitimacy and integrity of dozens of professions. And these are, without a doubt, valuable functions, both to consumers and to professionals within these fields.

But a DOPL inquiry represents a challenge not only to your competency and judgment, but also to your very livelihood. At worst, your professional license could be revoked. But even a suspension or a public reprimand can have serious repercussions for your professional reputation.

Once a complaint has been filed with DOPL, it goes through a preliminary review. That review results in one of three findings: (i) no violation; (ii) violation, but beyond DOPL’s jurisdiction or authority; (iii) or violation within DOPL’s jurisdiction or authority.

The first finding is of course the best outcome for a professional against whom a complaint has been made. When there is a finding of no violation, the file is closed and no public reporting of the matter occurs.

The second finding generally does not end the matter. DOPL may pass the matter along to the appropriate authority to investigate, or DOPL may issue a letter of concern regarding the matter to the professional involved. A letter of concern will bring the issue to the professional’s attention, and it will give the professional a chance to respond. A letter of concern is not public, and it is not a disciplinary action. However, a letter of concern on file with DOPL may have an effect on DOPL’s determination on any future complaint.

The third finding will trigger a more in-depth investigation by DOPL. At what point the professional is notified depends on the individual investigation. Depending on what the evidence shows, one of a few different types of hearings will be called. These are administrative hearings, as DOPL generally functions under the Utah Administrative Procedures Act. The hearings usually take the shape of a mini-trial. In every instance, the professional will have an opportunity to be heard, and to tell his or her side of the story.

Navigating administrative procedures—even the “informal” ones—can be perilous. And your story and personality can get lost in the shuffle. If you’re facing disciplinary actions from DOPL, please give us a call. We can help to keep you in business.

Michael Hepworth

Michael Hepworth

Managing Attorney at Hepworth & Associates
Michael is the Managing Attorney of Hepworth & Associates, LLC.
Michael Hepworth

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