How To File a Complaint

How to Complete and Submit a Request for Professional Review


1. Find out if the social worker is a member of NASW in your state*


To do this:

Contact the Office of Ethics and Professional Review via email at professionalreview@socialworkers.org with ONLY the following information:

  • First and last name of the social worker
  • City and state where the violation(s) occurred
  • Date of the alleged violation(s)

Please send only one email. Do not include any attachments. The Office of Ethics and Professional Review (OEPR) will respond within fourteen (14) business days.

Please note: There is a one-year time limitation on violations that can be reviewed by the NASW process based on the date on which we receive a Request for Professional Review.

* Only AFTER you have received our verification that the person is an NASW member, proceed with the next steps.


2. Download and review the NASW Code of Ethics


Review the ethical standards in the Code of Ethics.  Determine if your complaint meets any of the ethical standards listed.  If so, can you provide examples?


3. If you determine your complaint meets the ethical standards, then download the NASW Procedures for Professional Review.


The Office of Ethics and Professional Review (OEPR) will assign you a Consultant who will help you complete the Request for Professional Review (RPR) form and the Confidentiality Pledge/Statement of Understanding form.  The Consultant can give guidance and technical assistance throughout the professional review process. However, the assigned Consultant cannot advocate on the Complainant’s or Respondent’s behalf.


4. You will work with your Consultant to complete the Request for Professional Review Form

If the alleged misconduct occurred more than one (1) year (12 months) ago. You will need to complete a Time Limits Waiver (TLW) form in its entirety. Your Consultant will explain and assist you with completing the form.


5. You will work with your Consultant to complete the Confidentiality Pledge/Statement of Understanding Form

The NASW professional review process is a fair and just legally protected peer-review process. All parties involved in the professional review process are required to maintain strict standards regarding confidentiality. Confidentiality pertains to all documents and proceedings including information that the Request for Professional Review (RPR) has been filed as well as any and all outcomes. Legal counsel may not participate directly in the professional review process.


6. The Respondent will be notified and have an opportunity to submit a response


The Respondent will have 14 business days following the receipt of a correctly submitted RPR to submit a signed Confidentiality Pledge/Statement of Understanding form and a response that is pertinent to the criteria for acceptance of the RPR.  The Respondent will be assisted by a different Consultant.


Next Steps: After both parties have submitted their materials the following steps will be taken:


7. Review


The Intake Subcommittee of the National Ethics Committee (NEC) will review the RPR to determine if the criteria for acceptance have (has) been met.

A. If the complaint is accepted:  Both parties (Complainant and Respondent) will receive a decision letter noting the case has been accepted, the scope of the proceedings, and if the case has been referred to mediation or adjudication.  The OEPR (Office of Ethics and Professional Review) will then begin to schedule the date of the review and the parties will be notified of the next steps.

B. If not accepted: Parties will receive a decision letter noting the case has been rejected, and which criteria for acceptance were not met.

Neither the Complainant nor the Respondent may appeal the NEC Intake Subcommittee's decision to accept or reject an RPR or to close a case.


8. The Complaint will be referred to Mediation or Adjudication


If the RPR is accepted for review, the NEC Intake Subcommittee will determine whether the matter will be referred to mediation or adjudication.

Mediation: a collaborative problem-solving process in which a neutral third party guides a discussion intended to aid the parties in the dispute define the issues, obtain relevant information, and generate reasonable options for resolution.

Mediation is a conflict resolution process that is valued both as an element of social work practice and as a way to resolve grievances related to violations of ethics. Because mediation is a conflict resolution process in which the participants themselves decide on the outcome, NASW does not determine whether specific violations of the NASW Code of Ethics have or have not occurred.

Adjudication: the process of determining whether a professional action is in violation of the NASW Code of Ethics. When a RPR is referred for adjudication, a hearing is held to determine if the social worker’s action was indeed a violation of the Code. A report of the Hearing Panel’s conclusions is issued, and any appropriate recommendations are made.