Even if you haven’t taken an ethics course you already know that it would be unethical to lie about having taken an ethics course.  The New Jersey Board of Accountancy collected $4.2 million in penalties from CPAs last year who apparently did just that.  That’s right $4,200,000.00!  The New Jersey Star Ledger reports that this amount exceeded the “total amount of penalties leveled by all the state boards in each of the last five years.”  The largest fine assessed was $8,000, so there were a lot of CPAs who failed to obtain the required CPE.

In New Jersey, CPAs are required to take a state specific ethics course every three years.  Like many states New Jersey usually selected about 10% of renewal applications to conduct an audit of all CPE courses.  Instead, last year they elected to compare the list of attendees at the required ethics course from 2006 through 2008 to the list of CPAs who renewed as of January 1, 2009.  Everyone who filed a renewal but had not attended the state specific course was audited for all courses.  While I’m certain some of these CPAs attended a non-state specific ethics course and believed that was acceptable there was a disturbingly large number of CPAs who didn’t take any courses.  That means these CPAs lied on their applications not only about taking the ethics course but also about taking the required 120 hours.  
Not surprisingly the New Jersey Board has indicated that it will conduct another audit for the January 1, 2012 renewals and it should come as no surprise that other states and other professional boards are considering conducting audits of their own.  $4.2 million is certainly an incentive for any state.  New Jersey has already indicated that they may more vigorously review doctors, nurses, pharmacists and psychologists. 

CPAs are generally considered to be the most honest and trustworthy profession, so, if they have trouble meeting their ethics requirements the other professionals are as well.  Hopefully, the lesson learned here is that every professional should take their CPE requirements seriously.  If anyone has any questions about their requirements or has a licensing issue please contact me.  And remember to contact me before meeting with an investigator.

 For CPAs, please remember that in Pennsylvania, your next renewal will be on January 1, 2014.  You are required to obtain at least 20 CPE credits each year during the two year cycle and 80 hours total during that period. Although the regulations still have yet to be passed, the Board has indicated that it will be requiring 4 credits of ethics for the upcoming renewal.  Remember, it is also your responsibility to make certain that the CPE credits you have taken are approved for credit in Pennsylvania.  Your provider should be able to give you this information.

 All other professionals have renewal deadlines and CPE requirements which must be followed.

 While it remains to be seen if Pennsylvania will increase its CPE audits and prosecutions,  you can avoid any concern about an audit or prosecution if you simply follow the regulations of your profession.

The passage of Massachusetts law restricting mandatory overtime for nurses gave me the occasion to look back and report on the Pennsylvania’s law.  Act 102 of 2008 is called the Prohibition on Excessive Overtime in Healthcare Act and went into effect on July 1, 2009.  These laws are designed to provide increased patient safety by preventing nurses from being forced to work mandatory overtime. Numerous studies have linked nurse fatigue and/or overwork to medical errors and/or patient deaths.  
At this time, with the addition of Massachusetts there are now 15 states with laws restricting mandatory overtime for nurses.  New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia are the neighboring states with such a law.  
Pennsylvania’s law does not go so far as to prohibit voluntarily exceeding eight hours in a day or forty hours in a week as some states have done.  Therefore, in Pennsylvania, a nurse may voluntarily work as many hours in a day or week as they like.  The law protects nurses from discrimination or retaliatory action for refusing to work overtime.  There are limited exceptions when a nurse may be required to work overtime but those essentially involve patient safety issues should the nurse not work the overtime.
The Department of State has a web page devoted to this law and reporting violations.   http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=614498&mode=2 The  Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP)  indicates on their website that they continue to monitor Pennsylvania’s law as well. http://www.pennanurses.org/pac/mot.html

If you have any questions about this, please contact me a jmcguire@c-wlaw.com.