What Does COVID-19 Mean For Pennsylvania Professional Licensees?

On or about March 11, 2020, the coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19, was deemed as a nationwide pandemic. This pandemic has led to numerous stay-at-home orders from state government officials across the nation, including Pennsylvania. For example, on April 1, 2020, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued an Order requiring all 67 counties in Pennsylvania to stay at home, effective immediately.

What does this mean for professional licensees? This means that, as a matter of law, the majority of Pennsylvania professional licensees are required to work remotely. This has become a hassle for many professional licensees financially but also legally. It raises the issue of what impact does all of this have on a professional licensees’ legal obligation to satisfy certain in-person requirements mandated by the Pennsylvania State Boards.

This is a question of concern primarily for those professional licensees that are obligated to do business in person, as a matter of law, pursuant to their respective State Board’s regulations.

For instance, under Pennsylvania professional licensee law, notaries are required to meet with their clients in order to notarize documents. Specifically, Section 12.1 of “The Notary Public Law” states:

[t]he officer notarizing the instrument shall know through personal knowledge or have satisfactory evidence that the person appearing before the notary is the person described in and who is executing the instrument. For the purposes of this act and section 5 of the act of July 24, 1941 (P.L. 490, No. 188), known as the “Uniform Acknowledgment Act,” “personal knowledge” means having an acquaintance, derived from association with the individual in relation to other people and based upon a chain of circumstances surrounding the individual, which establishes the individual’s identity, and “satisfactory evidence” means the reliance on the presentation of a current, government-issued identification card bearing a photograph, signature or physical description and serial or identification number, or the oath or affirmation of a credible witness who is personally known to the notary and who personally knows the individual. In certifying a copy of a document or other item, a notary public shall determine that the proffered copy is a full, true and accurate transcription or reproduction of that which was copied.

See 57 P.S. § 158. In other words, Pennsylvania notaries have a legal duty to conduct notary business in person in order to verify the identity of clients. How can a notary comply with this legal obligation while also complying with Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order?

The Pennsylvania Department of State has provided guidance on this issue. Precisely, the Pennsylvania Department of State recently indicated that it has received a temporary suspension of the physical presence requirement for notaries. Pennsylvania notaries are temporarily able to use audio-visual communication as an alternative to the physical presence requirement. Pennsylvania notaries, however, are required to abide by all other aspects of the Pennsylvania notary law.

While the Pennsylvania Department of State has not yet provided guidance as of yet regarding COVID-19 and Governor Wolf’s stay-at-home order’s impact on other professional licensees that have in-person legal obligations, its insight on notaries is of some assistance. Concisely, this is an indication that professional licensees need to comply with the stay-at-home order to the best of their abilities. Practically, this means that professional licensees should still fulfill their duties but remotely to the extent they can.

In the event you are unsure as to the impact COVID-19 has on your professional license and obligations, please consult with our experienced attorneys at Dickie McCamey regarding professional licensure issues.

Anthony D. Cox, Jr.