Professionals should not go up against their regulator alone

Contact an experience lawyer for occupational therapists if you’ve received a complaint from The College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario (“COTO”). The COTO is the regulator for occupational therapists in Ontario.  They:

  • decide who has a certificate to practise as an occupational therapist (“OT”)
  • handle complaints against occupational therapists

But the COTO does not work for you.  In fact, the College can:

  • deny applicant’s applications for a certificate to practice or
  • suspend, revoke or place terms, conditions, or limitations on occupational therapist’s certificate to practice

If you are considering applying to the College or have been notified of a complaint, it is crucial to have representation to safeguard your interests and defend your rights.

Our team of experienced occupational therapist lawyers can assist occupational therapists with matters including:

  • Guiding occupational therapists on adhering to applicable laws and standards.
  • Addressing complaints and investigations at the College.
  • Acting on behalf of occupational therapists at the Fitness to Practice Committee.
  • Defending occupational therapists during hearings at the College’s Discipline Committee.
  • Supporting occupational therapists in settling issues through the College’s complaint resolution process.
  • Representing occupational therapists in appeals at the Divisional Court of Ontario.
College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario Appeals Fitness to Practise Committee Discipline Committee Complaints Process Registration

Registration

Applying for a Certificate of Registration at the College can be a rather complex process.

The COTO offers three types of registration 

  1. General Registration for applicants who fulfill all qualifications and can practice without any restrictions.
  2. Provisional Registration that can be granted to applicants who are preparing to take the Certification Examination.
  3. Temporary Registration designed for occupational therapists registered in another province or country who require the ability to practice temporarily as a consultant or educator/instructor.

Applicants are expected to meet the following requirements:

  • Completed post-secondary education in the field, recognized, deemed equivalent, or assessed by the Association of Canadian Occupational Therapy Regulatory Organizations (ACOTRO).
  • Achieved 1000 hours of fieldwork or clinical practicum.
  • Either graduated in the past 18 months, completed 600 hours of practice in the last three years, or successfully finished a College-approved Refresher Program within the last 18 months.
  • Passed the Certification Examination.

Submitted applications are reviewed by the Registrar who may decide to:

  • Issue a certificate if all requirements have been met and all documents submitted
  • Refer the application to the Registration Committee for further review

Once reviewed, the Registration Committee will make one of the following decisions:

  • Issue a certificate of registration
  • Issue a certificate of registration with terms, conditions, and limitations
  • Issue a certificate of registration if the applicant completed specified training or additional exams
  • Refuse to issue a certificate of registration

Our office can assist you with completing an application and provide legal advice on any concerns you may have. If you are considering applying for a certificate from the COTO, contact us today.

Complaint Process

The College of Occupational Therapists (COTO) receives complaints from:

  • Members of the public
  • Clients of occupational therapists
  • Employers of occupational therapists
  • Other occupational therapists

Members of the College must file a complaint if, during their practice, they acquire reasonable grounds to suspect that another member from the same or a different College has sexually abused a patient, demonstrated incompetence, or is incapacitated.

The Complaint Process includes the following steps:

  1. A complaint is filed via writing, audio, or video recording
  2. The Complaint is received and reviewed by the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC)
  3. The College will notify the occupational therapist (“OT”) of the complaint
  4. The OT will have 30 days to respond in writing.
  5. The ICRC then reviews the material and utilizes a risk assessment framework to assess the complaint
  6. The ICRC issues a decision

Based on the Risk Assessment Framework, decisions of the ICRC may include:

  • Taking no further action
  • Providing advice/guidance to the OT to prevent similar issues in the future
  • Requiring the OT to attend a Continuing Education or Remediation Program
  • Cautioning the member
  • Referring the matter to the Discipline or Fitness to Practise Committee

These outcomes can have very serious financial and personal impacts on members. If you have received a complaint from the COTO, please contact us today.

Discipline Committee

If the ICRC considers a complaint to be “high risk” it can be referred to the Discipline Committee.

Before a case advances to a hearing before the Discipline Committee, a pre-hearing might take place. This pre-hearing provides both the College and the member an opportunity to present their cases informally.

In our experience a pre-hearing at a college can be used to:

  • Reduce the allegations against a member
  • Reduce the penalty being sought by a member
  • Raise important legal issues before trial

At the Discipline Committee a trial may take place where witnesses are called, and evidence is heard.

Outcomes at the Discipline Committee can include:

  • Revocation of the member’s certificate
  • Suspension of the member’s certificate
  • Terms, conditions, and limitations on the member’s certificate
  • Orders to reimburse the College for the College’s legal, investigation and hearing costs and expenses

These are extremely serious public outcomes.  If your matter has or could be referred to the Discipline Committee, please contact us today.

Fitness to Practise Committee

If a complaint includes information suggesting that a member’s conduct was influenced by an ongoing physical or mental medical condition—often described as “incapacity”—the ICRC may refer the matter to the Fitness to Practice Committee.

In our experience, a referral to the Fitness to Practise Committee can offer a number of benefits to members, because:

  • Complaints are generally resolved in a more private manner
  • The goal of the process is ensuring the health of the member through rehabilitative measures

Once an investigation and hearing are conducted at the Fitness to Practise Committee, they may impose some or all of the following:

  • Restrictions on an OT’s registration
  • Suspension or revocation of an OT’s registration

Nevertheless, it is rare for members to be referred to Fitness to Practice Committees without legal representation. Experienced and thorough representation is required to present the evidence that screening committees, such as the ICRC, need to see before considering a referral to Fitness to Practice. If you are facing a complaint, please contact us today.

Appeals

Decisions of the:

  • ICRC, and
  • Registration Committee

can be appealed to the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (“HPARB”).

Decisions of the:

  • Discipline Committee, and
  • Fitness to Practise Committee,

can be appealed to the Ontario Divisional Court. 

Unfortunately, self-represented individuals are very rarely successful in appeals.  We have unique expertise in appeals from regulatory colleges.  If you are considering an appeal, please contact us today.

Lawyer for Occupational Therapists FAQ

What does an occupational therapist defence lawyer do?

An occupational therapist defence lawyer provides legal representation to occupational therapists (OTs) facing allegations of professional misconduct, investigations, or disciplinary actions. They offer guidance through legal challenges, ensuring that the therapist’s rights and professional standing are protected.

How can legal representation help if I’ve been accused of professional misconduct?

Legal representation is crucial if you’ve been accused of professional misconduct. A defence lawyer can navigate the complexities of complaints investigations, represent your interests during hearings, and work to mitigate potential impacts on your career.

How can a lawyer assist with my continuing education or remediation program (SCERP)?

A lawyer can help ensure that any mandated continuing education or remediation program is fair, relevant to your practice, and feasible for you to complete. They can also advocate on your behalf if the terms of the SCERP are disputable or if compliance issues arise.

What are the potential legal outcomes if I’m involved in a complaint investigation?

The outcomes can vary from no action being taken to formal reprimands, mandated remedial programs, or, in severe cases, suspension or revocation of your license. Legal representation can help in negotiating lesser penalties or in presenting evidence that may exonerate you.

Can an occupational therapist defence lawyer represent me in court?

Yes, an occupational therapist defence lawyer can represent you in court, including at the Court of Appeal for Ontario if your case advances beyond initial disciplinary actions, or if there is a need for a judicial review of a decision made by a regulatory body.

What should I consider before making an appeal for Ontario disciplinary actions?

Before appealing a disciplinary decision in Ontario, consider the grounds for appeal, the evidence presented in your initial hearing, and the potential outcomes of an appeal. A lawyer can provide crucial legal advice on whether an appeal is advisable and on the strategy for pursuing it.

How does legal advice differ from general advice I might receive from colleagues or mentors?

Legal advice is specifically tailored to the legal aspects of your situation, including an understanding of regulatory laws, legal precedents, and formal procedures. It’s designed to protect your legal rights and professional license, whereas advice from colleagues or mentors may be more general or experiential.

What role does a lawyer play during judicial review processes?

During a judicial review, a lawyer argues on your behalf to challenge the fairness or legality of a decision made against you by a regulatory body. They present arguments, submit evidence, and cite legal standards to potentially overturn unfavorable decisions. Get in touch with a lawyer for occupational therapists today to learn more.

How can I prepare for a legal consultation regarding an occupational therapy issue?

To prepare for a legal consultation, gather all relevant documents, such as correspondence from COTO, any written complaints, your professional history, and details of any prior incidents or disciplinary actions. Having this information ready can help your occupational therapist lawyer understand your case more effectively.