Common Mistakes That Can Lead to Disciplinary Action for Social Workers

June 16, 2023
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

Social workers play an important role in our society by connecting the less fortunate with the resources and services they need to live a better life. It is a difficult, high-pressure career that is typically under-compensated. This can unfortunately lead to mistakes and poor judgment that can result in disciplinary action. If you are a social worker who is facing a disciplinary complaint, get the help you need by contacting a professional license defense attorney as soon as possible. 

Inappropriate Relationships

It is common for social workers to form a bond with their clients because they help them through some of the most difficult times in their lives. They listen to their problems, provide advice and encouragement, and generally provide them with the support they need to overcome whatever challenges they may be facing. However, social workers must be careful to keep that relationship professional. 

Social workers are, of course, prohibited from entering into a sexual relationship with current clients. Unfortunately, social workers can face disciplinary action for other relationships as well: 

  • Social workers may not enter into sexual relationships with former clients.
  • Social workers may not have a professional relationship with prior sexual partners. 
  • Social workers may not terminate a professional relationship in order to enter into a social or otherwise nonprofessional relationship with a client. 
  • Social workers may not enter into a professional relationship with someone with whom they have a close personal relationship. 

These relationships can develop over time and almost without noticing. Those who are vigilant about keeping their relationships purely professional may be falsely accused. If you have received a complaint alleging that you entered into an inappropriate relationship with a client, a professional license defense attorney can help you get it resolved. 

Engaging in Fraud

Social workers often deal with clients who are in crisis and in desperate need of government benefits and services. As advocates for their clients, social workers are sometimes tempted to submit applications that are not entirely accurate. Alternatively, social workers may rely on what their clients tell them without making a thorough verification of their needs or circumstances. In either situation, social workers can find themselves facing allegations of committing fraud in obtaining benefits or services on behalf of their clients. Government agencies are aggressive in investigating and pursuing these cases. A professional license defense attorney can defend you in the agency’s investigation as well as the disciplinary process initiated by the board. 


Social workers are ethically obligated to limit their services to those within their training, education, and experience. While this sounds straightforward, it can become a very complex issue when applied in real-world situations. 

Almost all social workers are highly educated, with advanced degrees and extensive training. However, their clients have intense needs that often require immediate attention. As a result, many social workers feel pressured to do what they can for their clients, even if it is outside of their competence. Unfortunately, you can quickly find yourself facing a disciplinary complaint if there is a problem, such as the denial of a client’s application or termination of their benefits. 

Even if you had the best of intentions and did your best, an accusation of incompetence can jeopardize your reputation and your career. A professional license defense attorney can protect your license if you have been accused of incompetence.

Harassment and Abuse of Colleagues

You can also face disciplinary action as a result of your behavior towards your colleagues. This can include the following: 

In addition, social workers should be aware that trainees, students, and supervisees are considered colleagues under your code of ethics. 

The key takeaway here is to recognize that what may be an employment law issue could result in disciplinary action. If a colleague has accused you of sexual harassment or creating a hostile work environment, an experienced professional license defense can help you resolve the situation. 

Social Workers – Protect Your License and Contact The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford 

If you have received an ethical complaint, you need to take immediate action to protect yourself. A disciplinary proceeding could result in the suspension or revocation of your license, probation, or a public reprimand. Protect yourself and your career by getting the help you need. Professional license defense attorney J.W. Stafford and his team can defend you and advocate for a fair and proper outcome. Call us today at 410-514-6099 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.