Real-life Spiderman: The Responsibilities that Come With Professional Licensure by James Yi, age 15


CALIFORNIA—With great power comes great responsibility. A similar logic applies to many professionals in the workforce, who are required to follow rules tailored to their job if they want to keep the licensing which allows them to work in said job. Knowledge of the rules and their punishments will help build a safer environment for client and licensee alike and allow them to better utilize their respective rights.

As summer gives way to fall, workers seeking to change careers in 2021 and 2022 should take note that there are many laws that are specific to a profession. Often, even acts which may seem innocent are forbidden. 

“A barber must have clean tools, even if customer does not care. A nurse cannot have an inappropriate relationship with patient. A construction licensee must have contract before doing work. He can’t just tell the homeowner that he will build a pool for $10,000,” said California deputy attorney general Michael Yi, who specializes in matters of professional licensing. The regulations are necessary for reasons such as sanitation and legal liability. 

Licensees would have already learned the laws related to their job as part of their education. However, they are less likely to know laws about the persecution and punishment of licensees. “The regular people don’t find out about these laws until they get in trouble,” Mr. Yi said.

There are a whole host of laws related to the process of judging a licensee, called the Administrative Procedure Act. There is no need to know all of them, but there are a few useful facts to know. Once a licensee commits a violation, the punishment for it is not carried out immediately. A court is held in which the prosecutors present their evidence and the licensees are able to defend themselves.

The punishments for violations are probation, suspension, and revocation. Probation is where the licensee retains their license but has to “report, and you have to… you know, take classes. And you have to follow a bunch of rules for whatever it is, one year, two years, five years,” said Mr. Yi. Suspension is when a license is actually taken back, but only for around 30-60 days. Last is revocation, where the license is taken back. Be in mind, it is still possible to have your license reissued. In order to do so, a licensee must cause no further trouble, gather recommendation letters, receive education, and file a Petition of Reinstatement asking to get their license back. Basically, the licensee must regain the trust of the authorities. The lengths for suspensions are quite long, as they commonly go up to fifteen or twenty years.

Often, a public reproval is sent to the licensee before having legal proceedings. As Mr. Yi described the situation: “Licensee, this is what you’re doing wrong, you have 90 days to fix the problem. So if they don’t fix the problem, then we get the case. But if they do fix the problem, then we never find out about it.”

Another key detail is that — while it may seem obvious — punishments are worsened if the licensee attempts to hide their violation.

To close with advice for current and potential rule breakers: Get help from your lawyer, not your opponents. The agencies (those who are trying to punish you) have no reason to help you, and their deputy attorney generals (prosecutors) are legally unable to, even for simple questions about legal facts.

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