Issues in Ethics: ASHA Board of Ethics Jurisdiction

About This Document

Published 2016. This Issues in Ethics statement is a revision of Ethical Practice Inquiries: ASHA Jurisdictions (originally published in 2003 and revised in 2011). It has been updated to make any references to the Code of Ethics consistent with the Code of Ethics (2016). The Board of Ethics reviews Issues in Ethics statements periodically to ensure that they meet the needs of the professions and are consistent with ASHA policies.

Issues in Ethics Statements: Definition

From time to time, the Board of Ethics (hereinafter, the "Board") determines that members and certificate holders can benefit from additional analysis and instruction concerning a specific issue of ethical conduct. Issues in Ethics statements are intended to heighten sensitivity and increase awareness. They are illustrative of the Code of Ethics (2016) (hereinafter, the "Code") and are intended to promote thoughtful consideration of ethical issues. They may assist members and certificate holders in engaging in self-guided ethical decision making. These statements do not absolutely prohibit or require specified activity. The facts and circumstances surrounding a matter of concern will determine whether the activity is ethical.

Introduction

For the protection of the public and to assist members in appreciating both the scope and limits of ethical responsibilities in their chosen profession, the ASHA Bylaws provide for the creation and maintenance of a published Code of Ethics. The Bylaws—specifically, Article VIII, 8.3 Board of Ethics—also provide a means for holding members accountable to the standards set out in the current Code. 

Many members and/or certificate holders of ASHA hold licenses or certificates issued by a state licensure board or a teacher certification agency, allowing them to practice in that state. These boards or agencies may also require adherence to an ethical code or code of conduct. Consequently, ASHA members and certificate holders often come under the jurisdiction of separate and independent codes of professional conduct that, although generally similar in intent and in principle, may vary in their specific provisions, requirements, and prohibitions. It is the responsibility of professionals to familiarize themselves with all applicable codes and regulations.

ASHA only has jurisdiction only over the following individuals:

  1. A member of ASHA holding the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC)
  2. A member of ASHA not holding the CCC
  3. A nonmember of ASHA holding the CCC
  4. An applicant for certification, or for membership and certification

According to the Preamble of the Code, "By holding ASHA certification or membership, or through application for such, all individuals are automatically subject to the jurisdiction of the Board of Ethics for ethics complaint adjudication." The Board must judge the actions of each inculpated only in reference to its own Code. Likewise, each related state agency, regulatory body, or entity is responsible for determining whether its licensees or certificate holders are in compliance with its own particular code.

Discussion

Although violation of a state or federal statute or regulation places an ASHA member and/or certificate holder in probable violation of the Code, violation of a code of ethics or a code of professional conduct of another state licensing board or credentialing body by an ASHA member and/or certificate holder does not automatically constitute a breach of the Code. Each case brought before the Board is judged on its own merits based on the evidence and its relevance to the applicable Code(s). Evidence considered by the Board includes materials provided by the Complainant and the Respondent but often also includes publicly available resources. The Board also will consider information submitted by any professional association, professional licensing authority or board, or other professional regulatory body as well as from any judicial body, court, or administrative law judge. The Board is not responsible for conducting independent investigations of complaints and relies on the materials submitted.

Principle of Ethics IV, Rule of Ethics R makes clear that "Individuals shall comply with local, state, and federal laws and regulations applicable to professional practice, research ethics, and the responsible conduct of research."

Likewise, as indicated in the Practices and Procedures of the Board of Ethics (2018) , Section I.H., "[c]ertified documentation of a criminal conviction shall be conclusive evidence of the commission of that crime in an ethics proceeding..." and "[c]ertified documentation of professional discipline may be conclusive evidence of the commission of that misconduct in an ethics proceeding..." 

Violations of the Code, however, do not automatically constitute a breach of the professional ethics of another agency. The conduct of an ASHA member and/or certificate holder will be judged by other entities according to their own codes of ethics or conduct.

It is quite possible that several entities may adjudicate the same alleged offense, simultaneously or sequentially, and arrive at varying—perhaps even conflicting—decisions. Similarly, the sanctions or penalties from the different entities with overlapping jurisdictions may run concurrently or independently. Such variations may arise from differing principles within the relevant codes, differing investigative powers of the boards or councils, differing burdens of proof required for the finding of a violation, or differing judgments among the boards or councils concerning the seriousness of the offense or the significance of extenuating and mitigating circumstances.

It is important to distinguish between an individual’s legal right to practice in the state, typically designated by (a) the state’s licensure or teacher certification and (b) an individual’s ASHA membership and/or certification. A person may have his or her ASHA membership and/or certification suspended or revoked but may maintain the legal right to practice in the state. Moreover, a person may have his or her state license or state certification suspended or revoked but may maintain ASHA membership and/or certification.

When the Board finds a violation and issues a public sanction, it may elect to share that final ruling with other appropriate entities. Specifically, the Practices and Procedures of the Board of Ethics states that in cases where the final decision includes a public sanction of censure, or withholding, suspension, or revocation of membership and certification, the Board may provide its final decision and relevant case information 

  • to any state agency providing a license to the Respondent, or to which the Respondent has applied for license or other credential, or to any state agency located in the state where the Respondent resides;
  • to any other professional organization that enforces a code of ethics or a code of professional conduct of which the Respondent is a member or is an applicant for membership; and
  • as required by law.

In fact, the Board routinely provides such information to the applicable state licensure board in addition to publishing public sanctions (i.e., censure, and withholding/suspension/revocation of membership and/or certification) in The ASHA Leader. The sanction of "reprimand" is private and is never communicated to anyone other than the person who made the complaint and to the person found to be in violation of the Code.

Many agencies and organizations with a code of ethics or code of professional conduct also offer individuals a process for appeal of adverse decisions related to violations of their code. Because of the potential differences in the codes and processes noted above, differences in the decisions of the various agencies or organizations related to a violation of their own code are not, in and of themselves, a reason for appeal to other entities. However, the Board will typically consider the outcomes of adjudications by other bodies in its appeals process.

Conclusion

When inquiries about the same individual are presented simultaneously or sequentially to ASHA and to a state licensing board, credentialing body, court, or regulatory group, the adjudicating entities will act independently, possibly issuing decisions that conflict in some manner. Each entity must evaluate the complaint specifically within the context of its own jurisdiction, procedures, and professional code of ethics or conduct.

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