Spring Ahead With These Important Professional Licensing Updates and Developments

updateHappy Springtime. In the spirit of the season, we’ve put together a potpourri of recent stories, issues, and developments in the world of Illinois professional licensing. As a Chicago professional license defense law firm, we stay abreast of all matters involving the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) and that impact licensed professionals throughout the state.

Here is the latest news on the Illinois professional licensing front:

Citizenship Not Required For Professional Licenses Under New Bill

A bill recently introduced in the Illinois Senate would allow otherwise qualified applicants for professional licenses to obtain a license regardless of their citizenship or immigration status.

Senate Bill 1166, which passed the full Senate on March 21 and is now pending in the Illinois House of Representatives, provides that, except as otherwise provided by law, no department shall deny an occupational or professional license based solely on the applicant’s citizenship status or immigration status.

The bill’s author, Assistant Majority Leader Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), explained said that she drafted the legislation because, “If anyone in our state wants to contribute by working hard and paying taxes, they should not be denied because of where they were born.”

Extended IDFPR Delays Risks Exodus of Physician Assistants From Illinois

There is always a bit of a wait time between the date IDFPR receives a professional license application and the date it issues one. But every day that passes during that time is a day that the applicant can’t make a living and earn a paycheck working in their chosen profession.

For physician assistants (PAs), who are in one of the fastest-growing and most in-demand professions in the country, the problem with IDFPR delays is particularly acute. PAs are having to sit on their hands for months before they can begin to do their jobs helping patients.

The current processing time for Illinois Physician Assistant applications is 8 to 10 weeks, according to IDFPR, though some applicants report having to wait well-over three months before receiving their license. By way of contrast, the average wait time in neighboring Wisconsin is all of eight days.

The Illinois Academy of Physician Assistants (IAPA) places the blame on understaffing at IDFPR and its lack of “sufficient funding to tackle the backlog of applications.”

A report earlier this year by NBC 5 Chicago indicated that the difference in wait times is making a difference in where newly-minted PAs are choosing to practice, potentially leaving a shortage of PAs in Illinois at the same time their services are increasingly being utilized by more patients.

Hairstylists Now Need Domestic Violence Training

Hairstylists often become unofficial therapists and sounding boards for their clients. Now, they will officially need training so that they can spot signs of domestic violence or sexual assault and help those clients who are experiencing such trauma.

Under an Illinois law passed in 2016, all 84,000 beauty professionals in the state have until this September to complete the in-person or online classes. Cosmetologists, cosmetology teachers, estheticians, esthetic teachers, hair braiders, hair braiding teachers, nail technicians, and nail technology teachers will not be able to renew their professional licenses unless they do so.

The classes are one-hour and only one session is required, There are 20 approved sponsors across the state providing the needed training, including several locations in Chicago. IDFPR has a full list of all available class locations.

Louis Fine: Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney

If you have questions or concerns about your professional license, or you learn that you are the subject of an IDFPR investigation or complain, please contact me immediately. As a former Chief Prosecuting Attorney and administrative law judge for IDFPR, I have seen the serious consequences that an adverse enforcement decision can have on professionals who suddenly find their future in disarray. I can work with you to develop the strategy best suited to achieving the goal of an efficient, cost-effective outcome that avoids any adverse action. Together, we will get you back to your clients and your career.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.

“It Ain’t Over `Til It’s Over”: Appeals of IDFPR Disciplinary Decisions

You, yourappeal professional license, your reputation, and your career have been put through the wringer. You fought the good fight before the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), but after a formal disciplinary hearing, the Department concluded that you should be sanctioned for your alleged acts or omissions. Perhaps the Director decided to suspend or revoke your license or imposed other penalties which could impact your ability to earn a living. Your worries about your future and righteous indignation at the unfairness of the decision may lead to you to ask whether there is anything you can do to change this outcome.

What Can Be Appealed?

IDFPR, like many Illinois administrative agencies, uses Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) to make decisions that affect the legal rights, duties or privileges of individuals over whom they have jurisdiction. Once a formal disciplinary proceeding concludes, the ALJ presents his or her findings, conclusions, and recommendations to the Director of Professional Regulation. Based on these findings, the Director will make the final decision as to sanctions.

You have the right to appeal – or more accurately, seek “administrative review” of – the Director’s final order in the circuit court of the county in which you reside.

You can, however, lose any right to seek relief from the decision unless you file your petition for administrative review within 35 days after the decision was mailed to you. This deadline is strict and unwavering, and a judge will dismiss your appeal if you miss it.

Administrative Review is Not a “Do-Over”

As with appeals of decisions made by a trial court, many people are under the mistaken impression that an appeal of an administrative decision is essentially a second bite at the apple; a “do-over.” They may think that they’ll have the opportunity to reargue their case and present their evidence and testimony in front of a judge who they hope will make the “right” decision this time.

This is simply not the case. “It is not a court’s function on administrative review to reweigh evidence or to make an independent determination of the facts.” Cook County Republican Party v. Illinois State Board of Elections,  232 Ill. 2d 231, 244 (2009). In fact, Illinois’ Administrative Review Law specifically says that: “No new or additional evidence in support of or in opposition to any finding, order, determination or decision of the administrative agency shall be heard by the court.”

Instead, the court will presume that the findings and conclusions of the ALJ as to questions of fact are true and correct.

Questions of Law

The circuit court will only review a decision to determine whether the correct rules, procedures, and law were applied during the course of the proceeding and when the ALJ made his or her determination. These are “questions of law,” and the reviewing court will only reverse the Department’s decision if it was “clearly erroneous” or the ALJ “abused their discretion” regarding the conduct of the hearing and the introduction of evidence, and that abuse caused “demonstrable prejudice to the party.”

Simply put, you won’t be able to challenge an ALJ’s decision to believe the testimony one witness and not believe another, but you could challenge the ALJ’s decision to allow such testimony at all if it should have been deemed inadmissible under the applicable rules of evidence.

If You Were Sanctioned by IDFPR, Speak With an Experienced Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney Immediately

As noted, whether you have a viable basis for administrative review of an IDFPR decision imposing sanctions against you will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case. But you have an extremely limited time to decide whether to pursue an appeal, so it is critical to contact an experienced professional license defense lawyer as soon as possible after you receive a final decision.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.