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Sample Violations and Complaints

Review before you file

If you suspect your physical therapist (PT) or physical therapist assistant (PTA) might be a violator, see our list of sample violations and a sample complaint and investigation process.

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Contact a state licensing board. Each state has its own forms and processes.

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Sample violations

Although each state defines violations that are punishable under their practice act, here are examples of possible violations:

  • Obtaining or attempting to obtain a license or certificate by fraud or misrepresentation.
  • Practicing or offering to practice beyond the scope of the practice of physical therapy.
  • Acting in a manner inconsistent with generally accepted standards of physical therapy practice, regardless of whether actual injury to the patient is established.
  • Failing to adhere to the recognized standards of ethics of the physical therapy profession.
  • Failing to maintain adequate patient records. For the purposes of this paragraph, “adequate patient records” means legible records that contain at minimum sufficient information to identify the patient, an evaluation of objective findings, a diagnosis, a plan of care, a treatment record and a discharge plan.
  • Failing to supervise physical therapist assistants or physical therapy aides in accordance with this act and board rules.
  • Failing to report to the board, where there is direct knowledge, any unprofessional, incompetent or illegal acts that appear to be in violation of this act or any rules established by the board.
  • Engaging in sexual misconduct. For the purpose of this paragraph sexual misconduct includes:
    • Engaging in or soliciting sexual relationships, whether consensual or non-consensual, while a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant/patient relationship exists.
    • Making sexual advances, requesting sexual favors or engaging in other verbal conduct or physical contact of a sexual nature with patients or clients.
    • Intentionally viewing a completely or partially disrobed patient in the course of treatment if the viewing is not related to patient diagnosis or treatment under current practice standards.
  • Aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of physical therapy.
  • Participating in physical therapy services in which the referral source has a financial interest dependent upon the revenue generated by the services.
  • Directly or indirectly requesting, receiving or participating in the dividing, transferring, assigning, rebating or refunding of an unearned fee, or profiting by means of a credit or other valuable consideration such as an unearned commission, discount or gratuity in connection with the furnishing of physical therapy services. This does not prohibit the members of any regularly and properly organized business entity recognized by law and comprising physical therapists from dividing fees received for professional services among themselves as they determine necessary.
  • Promoting any unnecessary device, treatment intervention or service resulting in the financial gain of the practitioner or of a third party.
  • Providing treatment intervention unwarranted by the condition of the patient or continuing treatment beyond the point of reasonable benefit.
  • Participating in underutilization or overutilization of physical therapy services for personal or institutional financial gain.
  • Charging fraudulent fees for services performed or not performed.
  • Making misleading, deceptive, untrue or fraudulent representations in violation of this act or in the practice of the profession.
  • Practicing as a physical therapist or working as a physical therapist assistant when physical or mental abilities are impaired by the use of controlled substances or other habit-forming drugs, chemicals or alcohol, or by other causes.
  • Practicing physical therapy with a mental or physical condition that impairs the ability of the licensee to practice with skill and safety.
  • Interfering with an investigation or disciplinary proceeding by failure to cooperate, by willful misrepresentation of facts, or by the use of threats or harassment against any patient or witness to prevent that patient or witness from providing evidence in a disciplinary proceeding or any legal action.
  • Failing to maintain patient confidentiality without documented authorization of the patient or unless otherwise required by law. All records used or resulting from a consultation by means of telecommunications are part of a patient’s records and are subject to applicable confidentiality requirements.

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Sample complaint and investigation process

Each state has its own process and complaint form. You must use the process and form designated by your state.

However, the Ohio OTPTAT Board has given us permission to reprint their complaint and investigation process (October 2006) for your information. This is provided so that you can see a typical complaint process.

The Ohio Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Athletic Trainers Board have the responsibility to enforce the laws and rules governing the practice of occupational therapy, physical therapy, and athletic training. The Board has the authority to deny an application and/or discipline an individual’s license to practice occupational therapy, physical therapy, or athletic training, but does not have the authority to provide financial compensation to a complainant (the person or organization that files the complaint) or intervene in litigation in any court. The Board does not have legal jurisdiction over other health care professionals or facilities (i.e.: hospitals, nursing homes, schools, private practices, home health agencies), only the individuals it licenses.

A complaint form may be obtained under the “Enforcement” section of the Board’s website. After receipt of a signed/dated formal complaint, including a written narrative and a signed and dated release of information/medical documentation form, an acknowledgement letter will be mailed to the complainant.

The Board’s enforcement staff will initially determine if the complaint falls within the jurisdiction of the Board’s authority. The Board will notify a complainant if the matter does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Board. If the complaint is within the jurisdiction of the board, a member of the enforcement staff may ask for additional information, such as documentation, physical evidence, or clarification of the information already provided by the complainant. Interviews are conducted with the complainant when deemed necessary.

The Board routinely interviews the respondent (the licensee or applicant who is the subject of the complaint) and any other witnesses that may have information regarding the complaint. When a violation cannot be substantiated following an investigation, a case may be closed with no formal action. Cases closed without formal action do not become a public record; therefore, information gathered during the course of the investigation cannot be released.

When an investigation indicates that a violation appears to have occurred and formal action is required, the Board may seek to negotiate a Consent Agreement, which must be agreed upon by the respondent and the Board. A Consent Agreement usually contains the applicable regulatory language and any disciplinary action(s) agreed upon by both parties. Consent Agreements are public records and will be released to the public upon request.

When a violation is believed to have occurred but no Consent Agreement is offered or agreed upon by the respondent, the Board may file formal charges, which are presented in a document titled "Notice of Opportunity for Hearing." If the Board approves such charges, the respondent may request a public administrative hearing within thirty (30) days of the mailing of the notice.

If an administrative hearing is scheduled, the complainant is typically subpoenaed as a witness to provide testimony in the hearing. In such a case, the Assistant Attorney General assigned to the Board assists and guides the preparation of witness testimony and presentation of documentation. The respondent also has the right to call witnesses and present evidence and examine the complainant and/or any other witnesses testifying on behalf of the Board.

The Board may accept, reject, or modify the Hearing Officer’s report and recommendation(s). The respondent is then notified of the Board’s decision with regards to disciplinary action. The respondent has the right to appeal the Board’s decision through the appropriate court of common pleas. Disciplinary actions resulting from administrative hearings are public record and will be released to the public upon request.

The complainant will be notified, in writing, about the general outcome of his/her complaint. Depending upon the complexity of the complaint, the investigative process may take a year or longer to complete, although this is not the case for all investigations. The complainant’s patience is appreciated during this process.

To obtain disciplinary information regarding a licensee, an individual may mail, fax, or e-mail the Board with a public records request. In addition, many of the public records related to disciplinary action taken against a licensee are available from the “Licensure Verification” link on the Board’s website.