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NASW's Ethics Committee

NASW's Ethics Committee was formerly referred to as the "Committee on Inquiry."

What Is The Purpose of The Ethics Committee?

The NASW Code of Ethics is fundamental to the practice of social work. NASW's Ethics Committee helps uphold the integrity of the profession by providing a process through which alleged violations of the Code can be addressed.

What Does The Ethics Committee Do?

The Ethics Committee does its work through:

  • Consultation
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Adjudication

Adjudication used to be the only venue utilized by the Ethics Committee. Alternative dispute resolution techniques (consultation/mediation) are now being used more frequently. The Ethics Committee's actions are intended to be constructive and educative rather than punitive (except for situations of the most serious misconduct).

The Ethics Committee can sometimes resolve issues that might otherwise end up at the Social Work Licensing Board. In this way, the Ethics Committee can provide a risk management service for social workers by assisting in the resolution of conflicts between the social worker and clients, agencies, and other social workers.

Who is on The Ethics Committee?

The Ethics Committee is composed of NASW members who are appointed by a vote of the Chapter's Board of Directors to provide this peer review function.

Who Can Use The Ethics Committee?

The Ethics Committee provides a confidential forum for reviewing alleged unethical practices by NASW members involving clients or other social workers. The Ethics Committee is also a venue for members to address alleged violations by a social work administrator of their personnel policies, or their imposing limitations on professional action by a social worker on behalf of clients.

Who Do You Call?

Please call the chapter office at 617-227-9635

How Does NASW'S Ethics Committee Differ From the Social Work Licensing Board?

The Ethics Committee is a private professional association's grievance process for social workers or clients who feel that an NASW member has breached the NASW Code of Ethics. It has no legal standing. The Ethics Committee can use consultation, mediation, or adjudication. It can impose sanctions but cannot revoke a social worker's license. It can refer cases to the Social Work Licensing Board.

In contrast, the Social Work Licensing Board is a legal entity created to oversee the social work licensing law and its Code of Ethics. Clients or social workers can file a grievance against a social worker with the Board. It will be investigated by a state investigator, and may, if substantiated, be heard by the Social Work Licensing Board. The Board can impose sanctions, including the revocation of the social worker's license.

How Does NASW'S Ethics Committee Differ From the Chapter's Ethics Hotline?

The Ethics Committee handles situations between social workers and social workers, or social workers and clients, that are alleged violations of the NASW Code of Ethics that have already taken place. The Ethics Hotline Committee provides consultation to social workers who are concerned about whether they are caught in an ethical dilemma and might be on the verge of violating the NASW Code of Ethics. For more information about the Ethics Hotline, click here.

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