Misconduct & Unethical Conduct

Defending Misconduct or Unethical Conduct Complaints Before the Missouri Committee for Social Workers

Missouri licensed social workers often face complaints related to alleged misconduct or violation(s) of regulations governing ethical or moral standards, client relationships, and relationships with colleagues. These complaints may, for example, include allegations of an improper sexual relationship or unlawful financial practices. To defend against such complaints, an attorney must have familiarity with the realities and challenges of social work and applicable Missouri regulations. If you receive a complaint alleging you engaged in misconduct or unethical practice as a licensed social worker in Missouri, contact the Law Offices of Kevin J. Dolley today.

Defending Licensed Social Workers Against Allegations of Unethical Conduct

Unethical conduct has a specific meaning under Missouri law. Under Section 337.630 RSMo, Missouri licensed social workers must adhere to the ethical standards adopted by the Division of Professional Registration. These standards are codified in the Code of State Regulations and specifically govern the conduct of social workers. Additional ethical and professional standards also apply to licensed social workers and may provide cause for discipline under separate areas of Missouri law. When faced with an allegation of unethical conduct, it is important to contact an attorney with the necessary background and experience as soon as possible. These cases often involve complicated statutes, regulations and standards that are difficult to navigate. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Kevin J. Dolley have significant experience representing licensed professionals accused of unethical conduct or misconduct and will provide legal representation to protect your license and professional reputation.

Missouri Committee for Social Workers Standards in Unethical Conduct Cases

Missouri licensed social workers may be disciplined for unethical conduct or misconduct, which may include:

  • Engaging in activity that exploits clients, students or supervisees;
  • Engaging in sexual intimacies with a client, student, or supervisee;
  • Failure to report known or suspected violations of social work statutes or regulations;
  • Entering or continuing a social, business, or sexual relationship with a current or former client;
  • Conflicts of interest;
  • Failure to disclose purposes, goals, techniques, rules and limitations that may affect a professional relationship at the time it begins;
  • Undertaking or continuing a professional relationship when the social worker’s competency or objectivity is impaired;
  • Providing professional services one is not qualified to provide;
  • Failure to inform clients about electronic recording of sessions;
  • Failure to terminate a professional relationship when required to do so;
  • Failure to protect clients against physical threats, intimidation, or coercion;
  • Failure to maintain required records;
  • Knowingly causing a client to terminate a relationship with another social worker for professional gain;
  • Engaging in sexual intimacies with a colleague over whom the social worker exercises professional authority;
  • Failure to exercise appropriate supervision, working conditions, evaluations, consultation, or experience;
  • Using a professional relationship for personal gain or profit;
  • Giving a commission or rebate for referrals;
  • Accepting compensation from anyone other than the client without disclosure;
  • Charging an unreasonable fee;
  • Accepting remuneration for services that exploits the professional relationship; or
  • Failure to maintain client confidentiality.

Licensed social workers may face discipline for conduct that violates these specific regulations related to professional responsibility. Alternatively, the Committee may seek discipline under another area of Missouri law, such as misconduct, fraud, misrepresentation, dishonesty, or violation of a professional trust.

When a complaint is filed with the Committee, it initially proceeds through the investigative process. This may require a written response to the complaint, responding to the Committee’s document requests, participating in an interview with an investigator, and possibly a meeting with the Committee.

Complaints about misconduct or unethical conduct frequently involve sensitive personal or financial information. Social workers may be asked to produce financial records, personal communications, or client records. They may also be asked to publicly discuss and answer questions about intimate relationships and emotional, difficult professional relationships. Social workers in this situation often do not understand their rights, how to effectively respond to these allegations, or how to publicly discuss these matters. Social workers also need to understand how their statements, records and communications affect their case and how Missouri statutes and regulations apply to the specific facts at issue. Our Firm’s attorneys will represent you during each stage of the investigation and develop a comprehensive strategy designed to effectively protect your rights, career, and reputation.

Complaints that are not dismissed after investigation enter the litigation process. The Committee may propose public discipline through a settlement agreement or may file a complaint with the Administrative Hearing Commission (“AHC”), which may ultimately result in a trial-type hearing. Social workers accused of unethical conduct or misconduct have the right to see the evidence against them, testify on their own behalf, call witnesses, and present evidence. If a social worker successfully defends against the Committee’s allegations, the case ends with a finding that he or she is not subject to discipline.

If a social worker is found subject to discipline, a second hearing is held before the Committee. The Law Offices of Kevin J. Dolley represents clients in these disciplinary hearings and presents mitigating evidence and legal arguments on their behalf. The Firm’s attorneys also counsel and advise clients on settlement agreement terms and the appropriate course of action for each case.

Contact Us

If you are notified that a complaint about misconduct or unethical conduct has been made against your Missouri social worker license, contact the Law Offices of Kevin J. Dolley to obtain experienced legal counsel to address the situation by calling (314) 645-4100 or by email at kevin@dolleylaw.com.

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