By Josh Koziebrocki, principal lawyer and founder of Koziebrocki Law
Following the formal investigation of a complaint to the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO), the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC) will decide how to address a massage therapist’s conduct, and may make a referral to the Discipline Committee. This is the most serious disposition the ICRC can make, and can intensify what is likely an already stressful situation for a massage therapist. What follows is a brief guide to discipline hearings.
The Discipline Committee sits in panels comprised of both professional and public members, and fulfills a role that is somewhat comparable to a judge in a trial. The Discipline Committee hears allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence, and makes findings of fact as to whether the allegations against a massage therapist are proven.
Following referral to discipline from the ICRC, the Discipline Committee will send a massage therapist a Notice of Hearing, which will state the time, place, and purpose of the hearing, including the specific allegations.
Discipline hearings are typically held at the offices of the CMTO in Toronto. Hearings are recorded and transcripts can be ordered. A prosecutor will represent the CMTO at the hearing, and Independent Legal Counsel to the Discipline Committee will typically also be present.
The CMTO is required to provide massage therapists with a list of, and if not previously produced, copies of all documents and things that the party intends to produce or enter as evidence at the Hearing, as well as a list containing the identity of any witnesses the party intends to call. A massage therapist must produce the same information before the commencement of the Hearing. If a party intends to call an expert witness at the Hearing, the party must serve an expert report on the other party before the hearing.
Prior to a discipline hearing, the CMTO may hold a pre-hearing conference. The purpose of this facilitated conference is to reach an agreement on as many issues as possible and, if the massage therapist and the CMTO cannot arrive at a resolution, schedule the hearing. Pre-hearing conferences are, in general, confidential and without prejudice.
The CMTO will post on its website the names of massage therapists scheduled to appear before the Discipline Committee, the dates of their hearings, and summaries of the allegations against them. Discipline hearings are generally open to the public.
A discipline hearing is a formal, adversarial process that is similar to a trial, with massage therapists and the CMTO each presenting their side of the case. The CMTO prosecutor will have the burden of proving the allegations against a massage therapist. The Discipline Committee may proceed in a massage therapist’s absence.
Where the massage therapist is found guilty of professional misconduct or incompetence, the Discipline Committee will also rule on an appropriate penalty, which may include the following:
- An in person reprimand before the panel;
- A maximum fine of $35,000, to be paid to the Minister of Finance;
- Terms, conditions, or limitations on a certificate of registration; and/or
- Suspension or revocation of a certificate of registration.
The Discipline Committee may also order a massage therapist to pay all or part of the CMTO’s costs and expenses. In rare cases, the Discipline Committee can order the CMTO to pay costs to a massage therapist.
If a massage therapist is found guilty of professional misconduct following a discipline hearing, the CMTO is required to publish a summary of the decision.
A massage therapist or the CMTO may appeal a decision of the Discipline Committee to the Divisional Court.
Massage therapists are allowed to represent themselves before the Discipline Committee. However, because of the serious nature of discipline hearings, it is prudent for massage therapists to consider retaining experienced legal counsel.
About the Author
Josh Koziebrocki is the principal lawyer and founder of Koziebrocki Law. He represents numerous massage therapists and has extensive experience dealing with regulatory issues. He can be reached at 416-925-5445. email@example.com | www.koziebrockilaw.com
This article has been prepared for information purposes only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice.