Claiming to be regulated professional can land you in hot water

By Jennifer Brown, Senior Editor

Whether you’re seeking public office or a new career opportunity, claiming to have professional credentials you don’t possess can come back to haunt you, says Burlington compliance lawyer Cathi Mietkiewicz.

“I think every regulated profession has to deal with people who are claiming to be a professional when they’re not,” says Mietkiewicz, principal of Mietkiewicz Law. “You can read a newspaper every day and find someone who has been holding themselves out as a professional when they are not — doctors, nurses, early childhood educators, dietitians, and denturists, for example.”

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer came under scrutiny during the federal election campaign for allegedly claiming in his biography on the party’s website and past leadership websites that he worked as an insurance broker in Saskatchewan. The Toronto Star quotes the Insurance Brokers Association of Saskatchewan as saying Scheer finished one of four courses needed to work as an insurance broker.

“It’s a constant battle for regulators trying to effectively deal with people holding themselves out as doing a job when they really aren’t qualified,” Mietkiewicz tells

Many people don’t realize how easy it is to check on someone’s credentials if they claim to be part of a regulated profession, she explains.

“I think regulators struggle with two things — trying to effectively deal with people who are holding themselves out as professionals when they aren’t and communicating to the public about how easy it is to check whether someone is a regulated professional,” Mietkiewicz says.

In Ontario, for example, every health college, such as the Ontario College of Nurses, College of Massage Therapists of Ontario, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, has a public registry that members of the public can use to find out if a person is a member of the profession.

“They can also check their registration history to see if they were a member and aren’t anymore, or whether they have ever been disciplined,” Mietkiewicz says.

Many people do not realize that individuals can have charges brought against them for falsely claiming to be a practising professional in a regulated industry, she says.

“One of the ways regulators attempt to stop someone claiming to be a professional is to get an injunction against them because that’s usually effective. It takes less time, and the consequence for somebody not following the injunction then becomes contempt of court, which carries very serious penalties,” says Mietkiewicz.

Falsely claiming to be a registered practitioner of a profession when you haven’t completed the requirements can also be problematic, she says.

“It can make you unemployable in the future, that’s for sure. And if you were aspiring to be a member of that profession, as some people are, there’s a pretty good chance it will bar you from any future application,” Mietkiewicz says.

If you are no longer working in the profession, as is the case with Scheer, but want to include the experience on your resumé, it’s a good practice to indicate a timeline showing the start and stop dates on your curriculum vitae (CV), she says.

“Scheer’s story is an example of someone putting it on their resumé but not holding themselves out as trying to work in the profession now,” says Mietkiewicz. “People often do this but don’t think about putting a date to the time they worked in that area. If you were in a profession but stopped doing it for a while, you can still put it on your CV — you just can’t imply you’re still registered with that profession.”

You can still promote yourself as having that skillset and any accreditation you earned, but not in a way that can potentially get you in trouble, she says.

“In theory, you may be looking for some credibility that you were educated and practised in that area, so there’s no harm in putting in those dates,” Mietkiewicz says. “People don’t realize they can get caught for it. It hurts your credibility, regardless. If I’m an employer and I think that you’re in that profession and I find out that you’re not, it hurts your credibility.”

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