Ethics Focus of Teleconference

Dawn HobdyDawn Hobdy, manager of NASW's Office of Ethics and Professional Review, hosted the Dec. 14 Lunchtime Series Teleconference titled "Exploring Common Ethical Dilemmas in Today's Workplace."

The event was one in the latest series of live teleconferences hosted by NASW to give members an opportunity to earn 1.0 continuing education units after successfully completing an online exam.

Hobdy explained that the Office of Ethics and Professional Review facilitates the professional review process of complaints against members. As a benefit, the office also provides ethics consultations as well as training.

"When you become an NASW member, you agree to abide by the NASW Code of Ethics," Hobdy said. A consumer review process by the office is only conducted for members of the association who are alleged to have violated the Code of Ethics, Hobdy explained. A complaint is reviewed by mediation and adjudication.

The office also offers ethics consultation to members by telephone. Consultations are conducted on Tuesdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Eastern time and on Thursdays from 1-4 p.m. Eastern time. Call 1-800-638-8799, ext. 231. Hobdy said the office averages between 15-20 calls per session.

She noted that common complaints in the workplace arise from consumers as well as professional colleagues. Issues concerning social workers involved with a child custody case are also commonly referred to the office. Other complaints may involve a private practice, an agency or a court setting, she said.

Hobdy said that in ethical cases that involve colleagues, a social worker has an obligation to first approach a co-worker about resolving the issue. If this method fails to work, the social worker has an ethical obligation to make a complaint, Hobdy said.

She pointed out that a typical area of conflict in the workplace may involve a social worker who has developed a dual relationship with a client.

A good way to avoid having complaints filed against you is to make sure your office's policies and practices are in line with the NASW Code of Ethics, she said.

If a complaint is filed against you, Hobdy said the best action is to stay calm, contact your local NASW chapter, put together any necessary documentation and provide a response if appropriate. She added that the professional review process is meant to be educative, not punitive.

Social workers facing dilemmas in the workplace are advised to: seek peer consultation, review policies and procedures, check the Code of Ethics and take advantage of the ethics consultation provided by NASW.

To learn more about other topics discussed in the NASW Lunchtime Series of Teleconferences for the 2008-2009 season, visit the Web site. In January, topics included: "Community Organizing for a Change: Applying Community Practice Models, Strategies and Skills to Agency Competency" and "Social Work Reinvestment Initiative: Building on Successes at the State Level."

Get more information on Continuing Education.