Mandatory Reporting to Licensing Boards: When and Why It’s Required

April 30, 2024
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

Most professional licensing boards consider themselves to be self-governing or, to put it another way, self-policing. Mandatory reporting is an important element of how these professions govern themselves. In fact, failure to abide by mandatory reporting obligations can itself be a violation of professional licensing rules. Therefore, it is very important for those professionals who are subject to mandatory reporting to understand the reasoning for this obligation and how it works. If you have questions about your obligation to report ethical or other violations, we encourage you to contact a professional license defense attorney for guidance. 

Why Mandatory Reporting Is Required

There are several different reasons why professional licensing boards have mandatory reporting requirements, but the primary purpose is to uphold professional standards while also protecting the interests of the public. Mandatory reporting helps maintain the integrity and credibility of professions by proactively enforcing ethical and professional rules and regulations rather than only acting on complaints initiated by the public or when there is some ostensible harm. 

In turn, mandatory reporting protects the public because the licensed professionals themselves act as an additional source of oversight. In other words, mandatory reporting imposes a level of supervision that would otherwise be unobtainable if the profession was solely dependent on public complaints. 

Here are some additional reasons why licensing boards require mandatory reporting: 

  • Deters misconduct. Licensed professionals are incentivized to maintain high standards of practice and behavior because they know other members of the profession are obligated to report any misconduct they become aware of. Members also have an ethical obligation to report their own misconduct. Knowing that they could be subject to disciplinary proceedings even if they caused no public harm encourages members to avoid misconduct even when no one is watching.
  • Promotes transparency and accountability. Mandatory reporting encourages members to take ownership of the reputation of their profession as a whole and prevents a “conspiracy of silence” from forming. Because professionals can be disciplined for failing to report misconduct, the public can therefore have some degree of comfort engaging their services knowing that the profession takes its ethical obligations seriously. 
  • Supports professional regulation: Mandatory reporting is a very important component of professional regulation. It allows regulatory bodies to fulfill their mandate of supervising their members and protecting the public by ensuring that licensed professionals are meeting their ethical and professional obligations. 

When Mandatory Reporting is Required

Every profession has its own rules and regulations and licensing board. As a result, the requirement to report ethical or professional misconduct will vary depending upon the profession you belong to and the jurisdiction in which you practice. However, there are some situations common to the majority of professions where members are obligated to report misconduct: 

  • Misconduct or malpractice. Members are typically required to report any incidents of negligence, malpractice, or professional or ethical misconduct to their licensing board that they have knowledge of. Mandatory reporting obligations could include an obligation to report your own misconduct and could also include cases where no harm is caused to a client or patient.
  • Criminal convictions. Licensed professionals are also typically required to report any criminal convictions to their licensing board. You are almost always required to report felonies, but misdemeanor convictions can vary widely depending on your profession and your jurisdiction. You almost certainly will have to report any conviction that calls your trustworthiness, judgment, or honesty into question. 
  • Substance abuse. Professionals may be required to report their own or a colleague’s substance abuse issues. This, of course, includes illegal narcotics, but it can also include alcohol and prescription drugs.   
  • Sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct has been taken more seriously by licensing boards in recent years, even if the misconduct was unrelated to the professional’s practice. Furthermore, sexual misconduct can include things such as sexual harassment. 
  • Mental health issues. Mental health is another topic that licensing boards have increasingly focused on in recent years. Many boards now require you to report your own mental impairments or those of a colleague.  

Contact The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford to Discuss Your Mandatory Reporting Obligations

While reporting ethical or professional misconduct may be mandatory, it isn’t easy. There may be many difficult issues that also need to be addressed. Before you report, we recommend that you talk to a professional license defense attorney to understand the process and your options. To discuss your case and how we can help, contact us today at 410-514-6099 to schedule a consultation.