It is not unusual for individuals who are thinking about filing an ethics complaint with ASHA's Board of Ethics ("Board") to inquire whether they can file the complaint anonymously. Or, in the alternative, to at least not to have their name(s) disclosed to the individual the complaint is about.
Individuals who want to file complaints anonymously may want to do so for a variety of reasons:
- The individual about whom they are complaining may be a colleague at work and they are concerned that filing the complaint will be detrimental to their employment.
- They may have a vague feeling of uneasiness about whether their allegations of misconduct have sufficient merit to warrant the filing a formal ethics complaint. In other words, there may be some lack of conviction about the information they have and their supporting evidence and that by filing anonymously believe they somehow remove themselves from those concerns.
- They may live in a small, close-knit community and are afraid of being ostracized by neighbors and friends for filing a complaint.
- Some worry that by filing a complaint they will be labeled a "whistleblower."
- If the Complainant has a private practice, the concern may be whether filing a complaint will affect referrals to the practice; individuals do not want to suffer adverse financial consequences for filing a complaint.
- They are afraid that they will be sued for defamation if they file a complaint.
The Board, however, does not accept or adjudicate anonymous complaints. Some reasons why anonymous complaints are not accepted are as follows:
- The likelihood of frivolous complaints, or complaints filed with ill-will or malice, is lessened.
- It would be difficult for the Board to assess the veracity of the Complainant and the credibility of the facts and evidence on which the complaint is based. Some cases depend on the credibility of the Complainant, and the credibility of the Complainant can make the difference whether or not the Respondent is found in violation of the Code of Ethics.
- Sometimes, in order to adequately respond to a complaint, the Respondent may wish to provide information about the Complainant's bias, prejudice, and/or motive for filing the complaint. It would not be possible for the Respondent to do this if the complaint was made by an anonymous source.
- ASHA and the Board cannot secure records, documents, and other evidentiary materials independently because ASHA does not have subpoena power. The Complainant is relied upon to provide these materials, and it would not be appropriate to accept evidence from an unknown source whose credibility cannot be ascertained and/or challenged by the individual against whom the complaint is filed.
- Individuals appreciate that due process includes, among other things, being able to know who filed the complaint against them.