Legal Issue of the Month

gavel with two people in background

Each Legal Issue of the Month presents an overview of a particular legal topic relevant to social work practice focusing on a recent court decision or emerging legal issue. 

This archive of articles for NASW members addresses commonly-asked questions as well as hot-button emerging issues.


Handling Damaged or Destroyed Records

Feb 01, 2017

When records have been damaged, reasonable steps must be taken to assess the damage and to salvage or destroy the records, if necessary. This article discusses what steps to take when client records are damaged or destroyed.

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HIPAA Security Risk Analysis for Social Workers

Jan 01, 2017

Technology has simplified the way in which data is transmitted throughout the healthcare industry. However, this technology has also increased the risk of loss and unauthorized use and disclosure of sensitive and private client information that social workers must protect.

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Licensure Board Disciplinary Actions — Part III

Nov 01, 2016

Social workers who receive a communication from their state licensing board regarding a notice of a complaint may be eager to clear their name, but confused as to the proper course of action to take in response

This is one of a three-part series that discusses social work licensure. Part I provides an overview of the licensing process. Part II addresses licensing board structure and authority. Part III focuses on licensure board disciplinary actions.

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Licensure Board Structure and Authority — Part II

Oct 01, 2016

The structure of the state’s licensing board is dictated by the law under which the board is authorized to operate as the licensing body for professional social workers. The manner in which licensing boards handle complaints against social workers may be affected by how the board is structured.

This is one of a three-part series that discusses social work licensure. Part I provides an overview of the licensing process. Part II addresses licensing board structure and authority. Part III focuses on licensure board disciplinary actions.

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Social Work Licensure: Obtaining the Social Work License - Part I

Sep 01, 2016

Some of the most critical issues for social workers are whether, when, where, how and at what level he/she will be licensed to practice social work. These questions pre-occupy social workers who are entering the field or seeking to change their professional status and, in many ways, the answers determine a social worker’s professional destiny.

This is one of a three-part series that discusses social work licensure. Part I provides an overview of the licensing process. Part II addresses licensing board structure and authority. Part III focuses on licensure board disciplinary actions.

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Social Work and Recent Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court

Jul 01, 2016

Significant change in social policy can be accomplished by the issuance of a single precedent-setting court decision. In June 2016, the U. S. Supreme Court issued decisions in six cases in which NASW submitted amicus briefs or participated with like-minded organizations in drafting and presenting briefs.

This Legal Issue of the Month article reviews the cases in which NASW participated as a friend of the Court and the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions from a social workers' perspective noting the NASW policy statements that support each case.

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Jaffee v. Redmond: 20 Years Later

Jun 01, 2016

In the 1996 landmark ruling in Jaffee v. Redmond, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal psychotherapist-patient privilege extends to confidential client communications made to social workers, as well as to licensed psychiatrists and psychologists in the course of psychotherapy.

This Legal Issue of the Month discusses the impact of Jaffee and how it is relevant and applicable today.

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Legal Issues in Clinical Supervision

May 01, 2016

Supervision is an integral part of the social work profession.

This Legal Issue of the Month focuses on the legal issues related to the educational/clinical supervision that is provided by a supervisor to help a supervisee develop social work knowledge, therapeutic skills, and self-awareness, as well as to aid in their professional growth and development.

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Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Disclosure of Student Education Records

Apr 01, 2016

Both HIPAA and FERPA provide important privacy protections but confusion can arise as to which privacy regulation is applicable to student health records. This Legal Issue of the Month provides a brief overview of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and how it relates to the disclosure of education records.

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Who Is Responsible for Making the Child Abuse Report?

Mar 01, 2016

When child abuse is suspected, social workers must be concerned not only with when to report but also how to meet the legal requirements of reporting. Some states relieve the social worker of the responsibility to report after following a formal internal reporting policy such as reporting abuse to a supervisor. In other states, however, simply notifying a superior of suspected child abuse or neglect is not sufficient to comply with the state’s reporting laws nor allow the social worker to avoid liability.

This Legal Issue of the Month reviews some of the legal considerations that social workers face regarding their child abuse reporting responsibilities and provides some general information about the states’ requirements pertaining to this issue.

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