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Issues in Ethics: ASHA Board of Ethics Jurisdiction

About This Document

Published 2020. This Issues in Ethics statement is a revision of ASHA Board of Ethics Jurisdiction (2016) and Ethical Practice Inquiries: ASHA Jurisdictions (originally published in 2003 and revised in 2011). It has been updated to include references to the Assistants Code of Conduct (2020). 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, certificate holders, and certified assistants 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) and/or the Assistants Code of Conduct (hereafter, "Code of Conduct") 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 of Ethics. 

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, certificate holders, and certified assistants 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
  5. An individual holding ASHA assistants certification
  6. An applicant for assistants certification

According to the Preamble of the Code of Ethics, "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." Similarly, the Preamble of the Code of Conduct provides, “By holding ASHA assistants certification, or through application for such, all individuals are automatically subject to the jurisdiction of the ASHA Board of Ethics for Code of Conduct 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 follow its own particular code.

Discussion

Although violation of a state or federal statute or regulation places an ASHA member, certificate holder, certified assistant, or applicants for certification in probable violation of the Codes, 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 Codes. Each case brought before the Board is judged on its own merits based on the evidence and its relevance to the applicable Codes. Evidence considered by the Board includes materials provided by the Complainant and the Respondent but often also includes publicly available resources. In addition, the Board will consider information submitted by or available from 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 may rely exclusively on the materials submitted.

Principle of Ethics IV, Rule R of the Code of Ethics 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." Principle of Conduct I, Conduct Fundamental A of the Code of Conduct similarly states that “Assistants shall engage in only those activities delegated by the supervising audiologist or speech-language pathologist and permitted by local, state, or federal regulations.”

Likewise, as indicated in the Practices and Procedures of the Board of Ethics (2020), Section I.C., "[c]ertified documentation of a criminal conviction shall be conclusive evidence of the commission of that crime in a Board ethics proceeding" and "[t]he Board may consider certified documentation of professional discipline to be conclusive evidence of the commission of professional misconduct." 

Violations of the Code of Ethics or the Code of Conduct, 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.

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 among the boards or councils concerning the seriousness of the offense or the significance of extenuating and mitigating circumstances may arise from differing principles within the relevant codes, differing investigative powers of the boards or councils, and/or burdens of proof required for the finding of a violation.

At the same time, Section II(G)(3) of the Practices and Procedures of the Board of Ethics (2020) provides the Board with the option to dismiss ethics complaints by relying on the matter’s “adequate correction” by “another decision-making body, including but not limited to state licensing boards and other professional associations.”

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, or assistants certification. A person may have their ASHA membership and/or certification suspended or revoked by the Board, but may maintain the legal right to practice in the state. Moreover, a person may have their state license or state certification suspended or revoked by their state licensing board but may maintain ASHA membership and/or certification.

When the Board finds a violation and issues a public sanction, it may share that final ruling with other appropriate entities. Specifically, the Practices and Procedures of the Board of Ethics (2020) 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, and/or to which the Respondent has applied for a license or other credential, and/or to any state agency located in the state where the Respondent resides or resided;
  • 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.

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 Board's 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 of Ethics or the Code of Conduct.

Like ASHA, many agencies and organizations with a code of ethics or code of professional conduct offer individuals a process for appeal of adverse decisions related to violations of their code. Potential differences in codes and processes (noted above) may lead to differences in the decisions of various agencies or organizations. This alone is not a reason for appeal to other entities; the Board will typically consider the outcomes of adjudications by other decision-making 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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