What to Know About New York State Justice Center Investigations

All health care givers who work for a facility that is governed by the New York State Justice Center must be very careful when they become the subject of an investigation.

The New York State Justice Center is an organization which investigates physicians, nurses, aides and anyone else who works in one of the facilities under the Center’s jurisdiction. If you are employed at this type of facility and you find that someone has made a complaint about you, you must be very careful about what you say, what you write and who you talk to on the subject.  You must be aware that the Justice Center is looking to punish someone, and that someone very well might be you. The reason I am writing this article is so you can become acutely aware that your entire medical career is at stake when you are asked to step into an office for a short “conversation” about an incident. You must understand that this situation cannot be taken lightly as you may very well find yourself immediately out of a job and suddenly your health care license can be on the line. In some cases, you might end up with a criminal issue that can truly ruin your life.

Please note that the Justice Center prides itself in investigating claims of all kinds and they want to find someone to be responsible. Your goal is to be certain that it is not you.

The issue usually starts with a complaint about your interaction with a patient. The claim might be that you were simply disrespectful, however, it might be that you physically or sexually abused a patient. Obviously, those matters can be extremely dangerous for you. When a complaint is received, the Justice Center swings into action and their objective is to find a responsible party and deal out as much punishment as is possible. This is all in the name of protecting people with special needs.

As part of the investigation, the Justice Center will obtain a copy of the patient’s chart and all other documentation available including your personnel file. They will also run a background check on you, looking for past bad acts.  Additionally, they will interview people who might have knowledge of the facts including your fellow employees and superiors and obtain whatever material they can which they will then use against you, if possible.

After the complaint is filed you probably will be asked about it by the people at the facility where you are working. It is critical that you recognize that this “informal” discussion is designed to pin you down to a set of facts to your detriment. Accordingly, you must understand what is going on before you have this discussion. If possible, you should avoid any meeting and speaking with an attorney before you talk to your employer. Sometimes, that is not possible, as you are asked to speak with someone before you even know there is a complaint. If that happens, you must be very alert and try to say as little as possible until you understand what the complaint is about, who made the complaint, and what the surrounding circumstances are. One careless statement might cost you your job, or worse.

At some point, you will probably receive a notification that an investigator from the Justice Center would like to talk to you. This is something you must truly pay attention to. What is about to happen is that the investigator will have the advantage of all of the investigation that has gone on with regard to the complaint, and will use that information while not telling you in advance what the investigation brought out. This interview will be recorded and the basic idea is that the investigator will use the information available to see if you will contradict the available evidence, therefore branding you as a liar. Nothing will go well for you from that point on.

So, if you do get a notification that the Justice Center wants to talk to you, be absolutely certain that you first contact an attorney. You must get to understand the impact these interviews can have and how you must answer questions so that there is no misinterpretation about your role in the events. You have to learn how to answer questions, that is, when the answers must be vague and when your answers must be absolutely definitive. There is an art to this and the investigator has been trained in this art, so you have to come up to speed to properly get your side of the matter articulated.

Many times it is your employment which is at stake, but sometimes, for instance in claims of sexual assault, you might find yourself the defendant in a criminal case. The statements you make to the Justice Center investigator, as they say, can and will be used against you.

In sum, any investigation about your performance in a Justice Center facility can have enormously serious consequences. Therefore, do not take the investigation lightly. Get competent legal advice so that you do not end up as the victim of an investigation gone wrong.  In these cases, as should be obvious, the Justice Center is not your friend and any misstep on your part could end in disaster.