In Florida, both the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) and the Department of Health (DOH) are authorized under the law to review criminal background checks on employees who work in the health care field. A criminal record can result in denial of employment in Florida. Depending upon the circumstances we have been able to advise clients and help them become eligible for employment or licensure.
We Help You Get Your Exemption!
We have years of experience helping health care professionals like you obtain exemptions to that they can continue to work in Florida
Let Us Help You:
- Review your documentation for completeness
- Provide advice on what is required to be successful
- Complete your application for exemption
- Gather the necessary court records
- Submit a cover letter on why you are entitled to an exemption.
- Represent you before AHCA and DOH Professional Boards to argue for your exemption
- Provide you after representation with a letter for future employers explaining how you got the exemption.
If you have received notification from AHCA
Presently, companies and organizations licensed to operate in Florida by AHCA are required to perform routine background checks on applicants for employment and existing employees. AHCA reviews all background screening results to determine whether a person is “Eligible” or “Not Eligible” for employment in Florida. A health care provider may not hire a new employee until a final screening determination of “Eligibility” has been made or the individual is “Not Eligible,” but has been granted an “Exemption from Disqualification” from AHCA or DOH.
If you have been deemed “disqualified” or “Not Eligible” because of a background check you can file an “Application for Exemption from Disqualification.” The application and process are more fully described at AHCA’s website found at http://ahca.myflorida.com/MCHQ/Central_Services/Background_Screening.
A person is not eligible to apply for an Exemption from Disqualification until:
- He/she has been lawfully released from confinement, probation or other sanction for a disqualifying misdemeanor criminal offense;
- At least 3 years after he/she has been lawfully released from confinement, probation or other sanction for a disqualifying felony criminal offense.
- Persons designated as sexual predators, sexual offenders or career offenders are not eligible for an Exemption from Disqualification.
AHCA will review applications and make decisions for Exemptions for unlicensed personnel working for a health care provider and the Department of Health will review applications and make decisions for licensed and certified personnel as long as that person is working in the scope of his or her license or certification.
The application takes about 30 days to be processed by AHCA before a determination can be made.
If you have received notification from DOH.
Under Florida law, certain health care professionals are subject to criminal background checks at the time of initial licensing. If a disqualifying offense is discovered it is reported to the professional’s licensing board (Board of Nursing, Board of Medicine, Board of Pharmacy, etc) for review. Applicants for licensure are then notified of their status and the right to apply for an exemption. Health care practicioners may request an exemption by submitting an “Exemption from Disqualification form to DOH.
What does AHCA/DOH look at when deciding whether to grant me an Exemption from Disqualification?
Florida law states:
“…the employee must demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the employee should not be disqualified from employment. Employees seeking an exemption have the burden of setting forth sufficient evidence of rehabilitation, including, but not limited to, the circumstances surrounding the criminal incident for which an exemption is sought, the time period that has elapsed since the incident, the nature of the harm caused to the victim, and the history of the employee since the incident, or any other evidence or circumstances indicating that the employee will not present a danger if continued employment is allowed…”. Section 435.07(3), Florida Statutes.
Specific factors that the State looks at include:
(1) the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense(s)
(2) the nature of the harm to the victim;
(3) whether the person is on probation or parole;
(4) the length of time since the last offense;
(5) the history of the person since the disqualifying offense;
(6) work experience
(7) personal references
(8) performance evaluations
(9) probation or parole violations
(11) other evidence of rehabilitation
(12) honesty and candor
These factors are looked at by DOH and AHCA officials to determine whether an individual is fit for employment in the health care industry. If the officials conclude that despite the criminal background history the employee is eligible for employment then a letter is issued granting an “Exemption from Disqualification.”
Do you need a lawyer to help you through the process?
We receive calls regularly from professionals who work in the health care industry and have received a letter from the State indicating that they are ineligible for employment in Florida because either AHCA or DOH has determined that a background screening has turned up a past criminal history. Most individuals do not use a lawyer when applying for the initial license. However, we hear from professionals when they get a letter or a “Notice of Intent to Deny License” from the State relative to their criminal history.
We help health care executives, employees and licensed professionals with:
- advice, guidance, and assistance with preparation of their Application for Exemption from Disqualification;
- Review and preparation of criminal records for submission to AHCA or DOH;
- Preparation of our client for testimony at any hearing on whether the client should be allowed to have a license or work in Florida; and/or
- Attendance and representation of our clients in Informal Hearings before AHCA and DOH boards and/or Formal Hearings to challenge the denial of an exemption.
When you are denied the right to work and notified by the State you are usually advised of your rights by DOH or AHCA to challenge the denial. It is best to always consult an experienced health care attorney immediately after receiving notice that you have been denied. The State has important time deadlines that must be met or you lose your right to challenge the denial.
To set up a free no obligation consultation call 850-222-7000.