Virginia's Judicial System

Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation

The Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) regulates twenty-nine occupations and professions that have been found, pursuant to criteria specified in the Code of Virginia, to have the greatest potential for public harm. DPOR's mission is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia by administering and enforcing the laws regulating commercial occupations and certain professions as designated by the General Assembly. DPOR functions primarily through nineteen regulatory boards which are made up of citizens appointed by the Governor. In addition to those boards, the Board for Professional and Occupational Regulation acts as an oversight board for the entire department. The Board's authority in disciplining licensees is limited to suspending, revoking, or failing to renew a license and/or assessing a fine of up to $2,500 per violation. The Boards have no authority to make a licensee refund money or complete a job.

In December 2001, DPOR established an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program. The program has been established to further the Department's mission by expediting the resolution of complaints and reducing the costs associated with processing complaints through the use of alternative dispute resolution proceedings. If a complaint alleges violations, which have been identified as offenses eligible for an alternative dispute resolution process, consumers and licensees will be offered an opportunity to attempt to resolve the dispute through mediation or conciliation, the ADR processes available through DPOR.

Carol A. Mitchell, who has been certified as a General District Court mediator since 1996, was selected to design and manage DPOR's ADR program. From September 1995 until November 2001, Ms. Mitchell was responsible for mediating and conciliating complaints filed with the Virginia Fair Housing Office involving allegations of housing discrimination. She is also an appointee of the newly formed Virginia ADR Council and is working on the agency implementation committee.

Since the inception of DPOR's program, the ADR process has been offered in approximately 178 complaints. Seventy (70) of those complaints have been successfully resolved. ADR has been offered, primarily, in complaints filed with the Board for Contractors. The complaints have included issues involving professional conduct, contract disputes, fee disputes, warranty issues, and construction defects. ADR has also been successful in resolving complaints involving other occupations and professions such as Real Estate, Cosmetology, and Land Surveyors.

In these difficult economic times, state agencies are challenged with accomplishing goals by employing more effective and efficient business processes. Louise Fontaine Ware, Director of DPOR, has committed through the Agency Head Executive Agreement to offer the ADR process to consumers and licensees as a service and efficiency improvement initiative.

Submitted by Carol Mitchell, Alternative Dispute Resolution Program Director for the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation






This page last modified: February 20, 2003