May 2019

Summary of Senate Bill 425 and How Hospitals, Clinics and Health Facilities Will Be Impacted

California Senate Bill 425, introduced in February 2019, would require health facilities and clinics to report any allegations of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct made against a clinician within 15 days of receiving the allegation. Senate Bill 425 was introduced in response to multiple unresolved complaints of alleged sexual misconduct, alleged drug and alcohol abuse and other professional misconduct.

Senate Bill 425’s reporting requirement would apply to doctors and a range of other medical professionals and employees who work at hospitals, clinics and a variety of health facilities. The bill aims to close legal loopholes that can allow a subject of repeated sexual abuse and misconduct complaints to work at a health facility for years because the relevant regulatory board is not notified by the facility of the allegations against a licensee. Failure to report would be punishable by significant monetary penalties of up to $100,000 per violation.

In addition to physicians, the reporting provisions would apply to allegations involving individuals licensed by California’s Podiatric Medical Board, the Board of Psychology, the Dental Board, the Dental Hygiene Board, the Osteopathic Medical Board, the Board of Chiropractic Examiners, the Board of Registered Nursing, the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians, the Board of Optometry, the Veterinary Medical Board, the Board of Behavioral Sciences, the Physical Therapy Board, the Board of Pharmacy, the Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensers Board, the Board of Occupational Therapy, the Acupuncture Board and the Physician Assistant Board.

The legislation also gives the Medical Board the authority to suspend physicians and surgeons from practice while an investigation of patient sexual abuse or sexual misconduct is pending, if the Medical Board determines that doing so prevents health and safety risks to the public.

Questions and Issues Raised by Senate Bill 425 Which Are Currently Unanswered

  • How will “sexual abuse” and “sexual misconduct” be defined for purposes of mandated reports under Senate Bill 425?
  • What impact will Senate Bill 425 have on internal hospital investigations and the peer review process?  
  • How will mandated reports affect the immunities offered under the California Business & Professions Code and Health Care Quality Improvement Act?
  • Will the mandatory reporting obligations apply to non-licensed facilities (e.g., medical office buildings) and clinicians and employees who witness misconduct outside hospitals and other health facilities?
  • Will the failure to report result in discipline relating to a clinician’s license?

Because Senate Bill 425 has not been passed by the California Legislature, stay tuned for new guidance, including comments from the California Medical Board. 

For additional information please contact one of the authors or your Polsinelli attorney.