Discipline and Complaints

How to File a Complaint

Complaints must be submitted to the Council on an approved complaint form, which may be downloaded from the Forms and Publications webpage or by clicking here.  Alternatively, you may call or write and request the complaint form be mailed to you.

It is important to realize that by signing the complaint form, you are waiving confidentiality as it is necessary for the Enforcement Division to review your complaint.

NOTE: The Council may accept, but is not obligated to investigate, a complaint that lacks sufficient information to identify the source or the name of the person who filed the complaint.

Generally speaking, complaints must be filed within five years of the date of the termination of services to be considered timely. However, complaints alleging sexual misconduct may be filed within seven years after the date of termination of services or within five years of the patient/client turning 18, whichever is later.

Instructions for completing the complaint form

State in simple, narrative language why you believe a violation has occurred, and be sure to include all documents and materials you believe to be important to the investigation of your complaint.

The failure to respond to questions or requests for information from agency staff may result in the dismissal of the complaint.

NOTE: All documents and materials gathered by or submitted to the Council during the course of an investigation are confidential and will not be returned to the submitting party once the complaint is resolved. Moreover, investigation materials may be disclosed only to those individuals identified in Section 507.205(b) of the Occupations Code. Thus, complainants are encouraged to keep a copy of any materials submitted.

Special Requirements for Complaints Related to Court Ordered Evaluations

Complaints arising out of or related to a court ordered evaluation may not be filed prior to entry of judgment or final order by the trial court, or dismissal of the case, and must comply with 22 TAC 884.3. Complaints subject to 22 TAC 884.3 must include the following information or an explanation as to why the information is not available:

  • A copy of the court order appointing the licensee to conduct the evaluation, or alternatively, a transcript or excerpt therefrom or written statement from an attorney-of-record in the case reflecting the licensee’s appointment;

  • A copy of the licensee’s expert report, or a statement that no such report was produced or provided;

  • A copy of any judgment, final order, or dismissal entered by the trial court; and

  • A copy of any documents provided by the licensee describing the costs of services, the nature of the services provided, as well as any limitations associated with those services, or a statement that no such documents were provided.

A complaint subject to 22 TAC 884.3 will be dismissed unless the complainant can show:

  • The respondent (the person against whom the complaint is filed) was disqualified or struck as an expert witness by the trial court;

  • The respondent’s opinion or inferences (i.e. testimony or report) complained of were ruled inadmissible by the trial court;

  • A written report by a qualified expert that explains the manner in which the respondent’s opinion or report failed to meet the requirements of the applicable law;

  • A letter from an attorney reflecting an opinion as to the manner in which the respondent’s opinion or report failed to meet the requirements of the applicable law; or

  • The agency would be likely to prevail at a hearing before SOAH based upon the information provided.

How complaints are processed

Priority rating:

Priority is given to complaints that indicate the possibility of imminent harm to patients or involve sexual misconduct. The priority rating system is as follow:

  • High priority – cases involving sexual misconduct or a probability of imminent harm to the public or a member of the public; and

  • Regular priority – cases involving all other violations of state and federal law.

Investigation of Complaints:

Complaints received are forwarded to the Enforcement Division.

Each complaint is reviewed to determine whether:

  • the allegations on their face state a violation of the law;

  • the respondent is a licensee of the Council; and

  • the activities or services involved are exempt from the Council’s jurisdiction.

If the first two criteria are met and the activities or services involved are not exempt from the Council’s jurisdiction, the complaint is classified as a jurisdictional complaint and proceeds forward in the Council’s investigatory process.  However, in those situations where a complaint fails to state a violation of the law, names a respondent who is not licensed by the Council, or describes activities or services that are exempt from the Council’s jurisdiction, the complaint will be dismissed as non-jurisdictional and the complainant notified as to why the Enforcement Division could not investigate the complaint.  In those situations where a complaint concerns a licensee of another agency, the complaint is referred to that agency for investigation.

Once a complaint has been determined to be within the Council’s jurisdiction, the complainant is notified in writing that the complaint has been opened with an assigned case number, and an investigator pursues the investigation in a manner appropriate to the complaint.  The respondent is also provided with written notice of the alleged violation(s), together with a copy of the original complaint and supporting documentation, and requested to respond within 30 days.

Resolution of a Complaint:

When the investigation of a complaint has been completed, the complaint proceeds down one of two pathways to final resolution.  The determination of which path the complaint proceeds down is dependent upon whether probable cause is found following the Council’s investigation.

Probable cause means the facts and circumstances within the agency’s knowledge, and of which it has reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient to warrant a prudent person in believing that the respondent committed a violation of the Council’s rules or other law within the jurisdiction of the agency.

Probable Cause is NOT found:

If no probable cause can be found for the alleged violation(s), the complaint is referred to legal counsel.  If legal counsel agrees that no probable cause exists for the alleged violation(s), the complaint is then referred to the Executive Director for dismissal.  Both the complainant and the respondent are informed of the dismissal. 

Probable Cause is found:

If probable cause is found for the alleged violation(s), the complaint is referred for an informal conference (i.e., informal settlement conference or ISC) by agency staff or a Disciplinary Review Panel.  A Disciplinary Review Panel is composed of not more than three board members selected by the relevant member board.  Prior to conducting an informal conference and in an effort to resolve a complaint by agreement, agency staff may send the respondent a proposed agreed order, i.e., a settlement offer.  If the respondent rejects a proposed agreed order or requests an informal conference, the complaint is then set for an informal conference.

NOTE: Informal conferences involving complaints requiring the use of expert testimony to prove a violation of a standard of care or the scope of practice for the profession must be held before a Disciplinary Review Panel; agency staff may not conduct an informal conference if counsel for the agency reasonably believes that expert testimony is required to prove a violation of a standard of care or the scope of practice for the profession.

Prior to an informal conference, the respondent is provided with written notice of the alleged violation(s) for which probable cause has been found to exist and is invited to participate in an informal conference. The complainant is also invited to participate in the informal conference, but separate from the respondent.  Both the complainant and respondent may speak with and present evidence to agency staff or the Disciplinary Review Panel, and may be represented by legal counsel if desired.  

Following an informal conference, a recommendation is made regarding the informal disposition of the complaint.  This recommendation may include dismissal or disciplinary action, or the recommendation may be to remand the complaint for further investigation.  A recommendation for disciplinary action is forwarded to the respondent in the form of an agreed order which operates as a settlement offer.

If the respondent accepts the agreed order, it is then referred to the Executive Director for approval.  If the respondent does not accept the agreed order, the agency refers the complaint to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) and the complaint becomes a contested case.

A contested case before SOAH is similar to a bench trial. The hearing is open to the public. A complainant may be called as a witness to give testimony at the hearing, in a deposition, or both. Evidence at the hearing may include a complainant’s testimony, the licensee’s testimony, admission of patient records, and the testimony of expert witnesses. Following the hearing, the administrative law judge will make a Proposal for Decision (PFD) containing the judge’s opinion as to whether the facts establish a violation of the law within the jurisdiction of the Council.  The Council will have the option to accept the PFD, or in limited circumstances, to reject or modify it.  If the PFD finds that a Council rule or other law within the jurisdiction of the Council was violated, the Council may sanction the licensee. If not, the complaint will be dismissed.

Notice to Complainant of Disposition:

Complainants will receive a copy of any disciplinary action entered against a licensee by the Council.  Alternatively, complainants will also receive written notification if their complaint is dismissed.  The notice of dismissal will reflect the legal basis or reason for the dismissal.

Right to Appeal:

Respondents may appeal any disciplinary action entered against them in accordance with Chapter 2001 of the Government Code.

Complainants however, may not appeal any disciplinary action or dismissal entered by the Council.

Length of Investigations:

The Council makes every effort to complete its investigations within 6 months, but the resolution of a complaint may take much longer.  While some complaints are resolved in less time, it is not unusual for the resolution of a complaint to take longer than one year. While numerous factors beyond the control of the agency staff and licensee under investigation affect complaint resolution time, this resolution time is diligently monitored and internal processes are routinely reviewed and often improved to ensure complaints are resolved as quickly as possible. Both the complainant and the licensee being investigated are notified periodically of the status of the investigation.

Toll-free Complaint Referral System

Anyone who wishes to file a complaint against a healthcare professional in this state may call the Health Professions Council toll-free complaint referral system: 1-800-821-3205. This automated, statewide number routes a complainant to the appropriate licensing agency.