When you’re a social worker, your license is your livelihood. As a professional, it’s important to understand how a social worker can lose their license and what to do if you are facing discipline.
Social worker license defense attorney K. Brandon Remington of Remington & Dixon, PLLC, can represent you in disciplinary procedures. Below, he shares how a social worker can lose their license.
How Can a Social Worker Lose Their License?
Grounds for a social worker to lose their license include:
- Criminal conviction relevant to fitness to practice
- Conviction of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, misrepresentation or fraud
- Any felony conviction
- Unprofessional conduct, dishonest practice, fraud
- Incompetence in the practice of social work
- Obtaining a license by fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation
- Physical or mental disability that prevents a person from practicing
- Submitting false documents to the Board
- Misusing a professional relationship for personal advantage
- Terminating a professional relationship for the purpose of beginning a personal or business relationship with a client
- Engaging in sexual activity with a client or former client
- Failing to protect a client’s confidentiality as required by professional standards
- Violations of other rules
A criminal conviction that is grounds for discipline may be reached by trial, a guilty plea, or a plea of no contest.
Social workers operate under a code of rules and ethics. Violation of any of these rules may be grounds for discipline. Some of the rules are broad, like an obligation to practice only in accordance with the person’s training and experience. Rules govern relationships with clients and other professionals. There are regulations for fee agreements.
Types of Social Worker Discipline in North Carolina
If a social worker commits misconduct or is otherwise found unfit to practice, they may lose their license. However, there is a range of disciplinary actions that the
North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board may issue, including:
- Probation with conditions
- Remediation, rehabilitation, counseling, treatment
- Practice supervision
- Limitation of the scope of practice
In addition to the discipline itself, the licensee may be subject to costs and fees.
The Complaint and Disciplinary Process
In North Carolina, social workers are licensed and regulated by the NCSWCLB.
Under the authority of N.C. General Statutes, § 150B – Administrative Procedure Act, the NCSWCLB may issue, suspend, and revoke social worker licenses. The NCSWCLB ensures that social workers are qualified and investigates professional misconduct.
Anyone who believes a social worker may have committed misconduct may file a report with the Board. They must provide the required information and affirm that the information provided is true. In addition, the Board may initiate its own investigation. Once a report is filed, the Board determines whether to investigate.
A disciplinary order may be issued because of an investigation. Alternatively, a licensee may enter a consent order. At a hearing, the Board determines whether the licensee has violated a rule. If they find that a rule has been violated, they determine the appropriate discipline.
Disciplinary orders are reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank.
N.C. Social Worker License Discipline FAQs
How long can an investigation take against a social worker in North Carolina?
Most social worker discipline investigations in North Carolina take a few months. An investigation may take a year or longer.
Do you have a right to a hearing if you’re facing discipline as a social worker?
Yes. If you’re facing discipline as a social worker, the Board must grant you a hearing. You may waive your right to a hearing.
Note: There is no right to a hearing for failing to pass a qualifying examination.
Will my client information become public if I’m subject to discipline as a social worker?
The Board may withhold client information from public record if the client has not consented to disclosure of their identity. They may close a hearing to the public if needed to protect the rights of a client.
Is social worker discipline public in North Carolina?
Charges against a social worker, notice of hearing, and a decision in the matter are public record in North Carolina. Investigatory records, papers, and documents may be public record, but client-identifying information must be deleted if the client has not consented to its disclosure.
Do you have the right to an attorney for a social worker disciplinary hearing in North Carolina?
Yes. A social worker facing a disciplinary hearing in North Carolina may choose to be represented by legal counsel. Their attorney may assist them with the investigation, examining and cross-examining witnesses, presentation of evidence, and making statements. They may negotiate a resolution on their client’s behalf.
Can you appeal discipline as a social worker in North Carolina?
Yes. If you are a social worker that has been disciplined in North Carolina, you may appeal to the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Protect Your Right to Practice – Get Legal Help
Disciplinary action can result in a suspension or revocation of your social worker license, but you can have legal help. Attorney K. Brandon Remington protects the rights of social workers to practice their profession. Work with an experienced lawyer who can do whatever is possible to defend against the allegations you are facing and help navigate the discipline process.
Brandon double-majored in Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He earned his Juris Doctor from Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida. Throughout his career, Brandon has received numerous awards and recognition from his peers and agencies that rate attorneys. A few of these awards are from The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyer in 2014, The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 Under 40 in 2014, Nation’s Top One Percent: National Association of Distinguished Counsel in 2015, Super Lawyers: Rising Stars in 2018 and 2019, and North Carolina Business Magazine: Legal Elite in 2019, among others.