There are various businesses that are governed by the Florida Department of Health. These businesses include salons, medical care entities, food sales locations, and more. The rules and regulations that are set forth are unique for each kind of business and the Florida Department of Health is required to check on the status of businesses annually. Businesses can also be reported for potential health violations as well, which leads to an investigation in most cases.
If you have a business that is governed by the Florida Department of Health, you might be very concerned if you receive a cease and desist order. You should be motivated by this event to take prompt action as a cease and desist is an indicator that your business has been reported for a violation of some kind. While it can be frustrating to have to stop providing services and temporarily close the doors of your business, refusing to do so will open you up to much more significant fines and charges.
If you are interested in learning some more about what to do if you receive a cease and desist order from the Florida Department of Health, you need to keep reading.
What is a Cease and Desist Letter?
Cease and desist letters are typically served to stop a business from serving customers or seeing patients until an investigation has been completed by the Department of Health. These letters are intended to protect the public from potential harm after a reported violation. In the case of restaurants, these might be things like serving food with maggots in it, or issues with a leaky roof, or other safety concerns. When the letter is served to a medical facility, it is usually because someone has been harmed or has passed away after being seen by one of the practitioners at the clinic or location.
These letters should be taken seriously, but sometimes they are not. There are instances where the owner of a business will continue to see patients or serve customers even when they have been told to cease business operations for the time being. This is one of the key aspects of the cease and desist letter that must be taken seriously and businesses of all kinds must comply with this demand or face further charges and fines.
Another reason that a business might be served this kind of letter is if the business or one of its practitioners has been found to be unlicensed or to have a lapsed license. There are very few jobs within the service industry or the medical profession that do not require a license that is kept current in order to practice or provide services.
When the property itself or the business owner has been found to be unlicensed, the business itself is usually required to stop serving clients or patients. When one practitioner is found to be unlicensed, the business itself might be allowed to continue to operate while the practitioner will be asked to stop working until an investigation has been completed. It is a very serious offense to be operating without a license in any industry that requires them and there are penalties and fines that are quite serious that accompany this kind of error or intentional oversight.
Some people will argue that by the letter of the law, a cease and desist letter does not mean that you have to actually stop doing business. This is technically the case in a general sense, but this applies to cease and desist letters that are related to copyrights and other less serious infractions. When you get a cease and desist letter from the Florida Department of Health, you are required to stop all operations that are related to the violation until they have given you the go-ahead to proceed with operations again.
You will have time after you receive the letter to take the necessary actions to close up shop or remove a practitioner from the schedule and to secure a lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to advise you about the timelines to follow with regard to business operations as your case progresses. Each industry is different and you might have to wait longer to go back to normal business operations in specific industries.
What Do I Do If I Receive a Cease and Desist Letter?
If you have been handed a cease and desist letter, you must immediately stop operations at your place of business. If the letter is aimed only at a specific practitioner within your business, you will need to immediately forbid that person from providing services until the Florida Department of Health has given them the go-ahead to go back to work.
Taking a cease and desist letter seriously is important to avoid further fines and other charges against you or your company. You will need to make sure that you notify all patients or customers that the business will be closed until further notice and you might need to send out notices via email or another form of communication that the business or the practitioner will not be providing services until further notice.
The next thing that you need to do is secure a skilled lawyer to represent you. There are many very serious fines and charges that can be associated with a cease and desist investigation and you might need expert legal support to navigate the charges or fines that might be imposed on you after the investigation of the Department of Health is completed. Some charges are simple to handle and some fees are not that large, but there are many very serious consequences that could be related to this error. This is especially true if the lack of licensure or the problem that was reported at your business has been going on for some time without your knowledge.
The most serious of these charges are typically associated with doctors or nurses who were practicing medicine without a license. This is the kind of thing that should be noticed and attended to well before someone is hired to work at a medical practice. If the license has lapsed the charges and violations might be less severe than if the person was never licensed at all. However, any situation to do with an unlicensed doctor being allowed to practice at a medical facility is very serious.
Do not take action against any staff that you think might have reported your business for the violation either. The reporting process is anonymous and you will not be told who turned in the business. A customer or anyone else could have done so, so you should never take action against the staff that you currently employ even if you think that one of them reported you. This is another way to end up being reported for other kinds of issues and you should always take ownership for the mistakes that have been made at your business, even if you did not know about them until they were reported by someone else.
Can I Self-Report?
There are instances where a business owner might have noticed that there is an issue related to their business being non-compliant in some way. You are allowed to use the online portal to self-report, but it is usually best to secure a lawyer before you take any further action. Your lawyer will help you to navigate the self-reporting process and also ensure that there will be a fair investigation that takes into consideration the self-reporting status of your violation. Self-reporting is not very common and most people are not aware that they have violated a regulation or a law until it is too late and someone else has reported the issue.
Self-reporting might reduce the severity of the charges that are brought against you or your business, but at the end of the day, it is really just a good-faith thing to do. You want to be sure that you are responsible for the clients that you are serving and that their safety comes first. Being unwilling to attend to this concern first and foremost can often lead to the closure of a business or the loss of licensure by the parties that were not acting in good faith.
While your lawyer might not be able to help you to avoid all the charges or fines associated with the problem that has happened, they can usually help mitigate some of the repercussions of your actions. This is also one of the best ways to manage this kind of violation if the severity of the mistake or issue could lead to you losing your business or being forced to remain closed for good.
What Are the Consequences of a Cease and Desist Investigation?
The consequences of the cease and desist investigation can vary widely depending on the kind of business that you own and the kind of violation that was reported. If the investigation does not turn up signs of the problem that was reported and there is no reason to assume that this report was correct, your business will be allowed to open again without penalty in most cases.
If, on the other hand, serious problems are revealed during the investigation, your business might be forced to remain closed until the issue has been remedied completely. There are also sometimes probationary phases that must be completed before specific people can come back to work without supervision. The business might also need to submit to more frequent checks by the department of health until a certain threshold has been met without another violation.
Fines can vary widely too, depending on the industry that is involved. Medical practitioners are often faced with the steepest fines for these kinds of violations but there are other industries that can be charged hefty fines for errors that have caused potential risk to public safety. In cases where the report is leveled at a repeat offender, there might be more serious consequences including jail time or loss of someone’s license. These more serious outcomes are most often reserved for businesses or practitioners who have already been caught making serious errors in the past.
If you believe that you are going to be in a situation where you might not be allowed to continue to practice or you will have to close your business, having a skilled lawyer on your side is critical. The consequences of these more serious violations sometimes cannot be mitigated but your lawyer will be able to advise you about possible ways to reduce the penalties for your error. Some violations are so severe that your lawyer will not be able to completely mitigate the worst of the fines and punishments, but often having a lawyer on your side will help make sure you get the best deal possible for your current situation.
Cease and Desist Letters Should be Taken Seriously
When you get a cease and desist letter from the Board of Health in Florida, you need to take these notices very seriously. The first thing you need to do is stop whatever action is discussed in the letter. You need to then reach out to your lawyer and have them start working on the case for you. Make sure that you follow the advice of your lawyer carefully to ensure that you do not end up in more trouble or having to pay more fines and fees. While the cease and desist process can be cumbersome, it is better to follow the rules than to ignore the letter and wind up with months of investigations and restrictions in place for you or your business.
If you need help after you have received a cease and desist letter, you need to reach out to us today. We can help you with your cease and desist case to make sure that you get the best possible outcome after the investigation. We can provide expert guidance in this kind of situation for various kinds of businesses.