COVID-19 Legal Resources

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Many legal questions related to social work practice have arisen during the COVID-19 pandemic. These legal resources are intended to provide guidance and information to social workers as they work to support the people and communities they serve during these challenging times.

Nothing reported here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

COVID-19: Legal Considerations for Resuming In-Person Services: What About Vaccination Requirements?

May 2021 — Now that more people have received the COVID-19 vaccine, some social workers want to know if they should resume in-person services. NASW recommends that social workers continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations when considering when and how to resume in-person services to clients.

FERPA: COVID-19, Virtual Learning, and Disclosures

As schools use virtual classrooms due to COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Education Student Privacy Policy Office offers resources on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and its implications for distance learning.

COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Response and 42 CFR Part 2 Guidance

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has provided guidance to ensure that substance use disorder treatment services are not interrupted during this public health emergency.

COVID-19: Legal Considerations for Social Workers Resuming In-Person Services

May 2020 — As governments begin the process of reopening, many social workers are considering when and how to resume their own in-person service to clients. Common questions are addressed in this article from a legal perspective, along with an informed consent form, to provide general guidance to social workers.

Social Workers' Disclosure Responsibilities During the Pandemic

April 2020 — Cases have recently arisen where clinical social workers have been asked to disclose the names of their clients to public health officials, to assist in tracing exposure to the novel coronavirus. The social worker’s responsibility in this instance includes aspects of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, NASW’s Code of Ethics, and local laws including licensure rules, health care confidentiality, and public health regulations. This article discusses how these national rules are likely to apply.

Please note: Social workers who work with students in educational institutions should be familiar with FERPA. Review FERPA and COVID-19 FAQ for more information that may be useful to social workers who work with students in educational institutions when managing public health issues related to COVID-19, and protecting the privacy of students’ education records.

Telemental Health

Telemental health is the practice of delivering clinical health care services via technology assisted media or other electronic means between a practitioner and a client who are located in two different locations. Treatment is considered to take place where the client is. With telemental health, social workers must make sure they are practicing legally and ethically; following state licensure regulations; and adhering to state and federal practice guidelines and payer contract agreements. These resources provide information relevant to social workers about telemental health.

Workers' Rights During COVID-19

Learn about key federal workplace laws protecting social workers during the current pandemic. Many of these laws have a state-law corollary, and certain areas, such as workers’ compensation and unemployment coverage, are primarily governed by state rather than federal law.

Prepared at the request of NASW and its Ohio Chapter by Jonathan Wentz, Esq. and Sarah Ingles, Esq., attorneys at the law firm of Barkan Meizlish, LLP.


The information in this website is provided as a service to members of the National Association of Social Workers and the social work community for educational and information purposes only and  does not constitute legal advice . We provide timely information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this website and its associated sites. Its transmission is not intended to and does not create a lawyer-client relationship between NASW, LDF, or the author(s), and you. You should not act based solely on the information provided in this website. Laws and court interpretations change frequently, and applicable state laws might not be addressed. Legal advice must be tailored to specific facts and circumstances. Nothing reported here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

Connect to end COVID-19, overlapping speech bubbles

Join NASW’s national Connect to End COVID-19 effort, a CDC-funded initiative to support social workers and their clients in informed vaccine decision-making. Complimentary webinars and CEUs available. Learn about Connect to End COVID-19

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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Social workers can help curb the spread of the disease and reduce people's anxiety.

Get more coronavirus resources

Technology Basics for Behavioral Health Professionals

NASW Assurance Services' video series provides answers to questions about technology.

Watch “Technology Basics with Cliff Lavin"

COVID-19 and Immigrant Workers

AFL-CIO provides a summary of where things stand for immigrant workers with the federal COVID-19 response, and identifies priority issues to address in ongoing state and federal negotiations.

Read the AFL-CIO fact sheet