Social Worker License Defense Attorneys
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Social Workers in the state of Texas dedicate much of their lives to assist the state’s unnoticed and too often disregarded citizens. As a licensed Social Worker, you probably entered your profession due to a strong desire to help people obtain the resources and other assistance they need to live their lives with dignity.
These individuals rely on you for guidance and assistance. Given your dedication to helping those others, you may be disheartened to learn of a complaint filed against you with your licensing board. At a time like this, you need to have the help of one or more experienced Social Worker license defense attorneys, who can provide you with the highly skilled representation you need to defend your license and protect your livelihood.
If your career as a Social Worker is threatened due to a complaint filed against you, it is important not to underestimate its seriousness. You need an advocate who thoroughly understands license defense law with respect to Social Workers and how to manage your case through the administrative and disciplinary processes you may face. Our team at McDonald, Mackay, Porter & Weitz, LLP is here to advocate for the most favorable possible result. Allow us to evaluate your case through an initial consultation.
Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners
Operating under the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners (TSBSWE) regulates Social Workers in Texas. As a state agency, the TSBSWE is tasked with regulating and disciplining Texas Social Workers.
If the Board has reason to believe a licensee’s behavior has violated its stated rules for professional conduct, the Board will launch an investigation and the licensee will be provided with due process in accordance with agency’s enabling statute, agency rules, and the Administrative Procedure Act. As the licensee, you have the right to obtain representation from a professional license defense attorney throughout the entire investigative and disciplinary process.
The Board possesses the authority to deny, suspend, or revoke a professional license if they determine that a licensee has acted in a prohibited manner. Some violations that may result in disciplinary sanctions include:
- Criminal conduct
- Sexual misconduct
- Impairment due to mental health or chemical dependency
- Maintaining a dual relationship
- Practicing with an expired license
- Fraudulent billing practices
- Violations concerning supervision hours
- Failure to cooperate with the Board
- Failure to maintain accurate client records
- Releasing confidential information about a client
- Incurring discipline in another jurisdiction
- Failing to report physical or sexual abuse
- Any type of an ethical or unprofessional conduct
Social Worker Licensure Process
Four different types of social work licenses are offered in Texas. They are:
- Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)
- Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
- Licensed Master Social Worker – Advanced Practice (LMSW-AP)
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
Obtaining each type of license requires the attainment of a particular degree from a university or college accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
Each potential licensee must pass a criminal background check and each applicant must pass a particular Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam as well as the Texas Jurisprudence exam. For the LMSW-AP and LCSW licenses, the applicant must have completed a specified period of months of social work practice which includes a considerable number of supervision hours.
In order to renew your license, you must have completed mandated of continuing education.
Licensing Board and Disciplinary Process
The communication that takes place between Board staff and licensees under investigation has the potential to be used against the licensee as evidence in a later Administrative Hearing. Due to this potential, you should take extra precaution when responding to any information requests from the Board. It is in your best interest to acquire experienced legal representation from a Social Worker license defense attorney. McDonald, Mackay, Porter & Weitz, LLP can provide you with competent legal counsel and communicate on your behalf with the Board members and staff.
Prior to the launch of an investigation, the Board must have received a complaint about your conduct as a licensee. This complaint may originate from a law enforcement agency, client or former client, employee, third-parties of all kinds, or an unidentified source. The Executive Director of the Board will consider whether the agency has jurisdiction. If it is determined to be jurisdictional, you will receive notification of the complaint and be given the opportunity to provide a response. The Board will then gather evidence concerning the complaint and may ask you to provide records or other relevant information. Ultimately, the Executive Director will send the case for review to the Ethics Committee.
Review by Ethics Committee
The Board appoints the Ethics Committee which meets on a quarterly basis throughout the year and is tasked with carefully reviewing each complaint received against licensees. Complainants are provided with the opportunity to explain their allegations and licensees are given a chance to respond.
As a licensee under disciplinary review, you are provided with the opportunity to directly address the Committee and answer any questions posed to you concerning the complaint. At the conclusion of this process, the Committee votes to either issue a Violation Notice or close the case.
During all stages of this process, Social Worker license defense attorneys can help you maneuver with skilled and knowledgeable advocacy through the various requirements and questions posed to you.
If you are provided with a Notice of Violation, it will convey information concerning particular Board statutes and rules which were deemed to have been violated and how you violated them — according to the Committee. It will also state the Committee’s recommended course of discipline and provide you with a specified period in which you may either accept or reject the determination. If you reject the termination, you may request an Informal Conference or move directly to a Formal Administrative Hearing to address the case further. A nonresponse to a Notice of Violation will typically lead to the agency moving forward to impose discipline.
If you, as the licensee, have opted for an Informal Conference, you will be notified by the Executive Director of the time and place of the meeting. Notice can be short and may be as little as 10 days. Attendees at the Conference will typically include senior agency staff—usually the Executive Director, one Board member, and the legal counsel of the Board. As the licensee, along with your Social Worker license defense attorney, you may respond to questions posed, make a statement, and provide evidence or other helpful information. If the Executive Director and Board decide the matter does not involve a violation or is outside of the Board’s jurisdiction, they can recommend a dismissal of the case. If they conclude a violation has occurred, the Board may recommend some lesser type of sanction than previously proposed or something different and on rare occasion more severe.
The recommendations of the Board will be provided in writing in a proposed Agreed Order which consists of proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, along with recommended sanctions. The licensee on their own or with the advice of counsel may either accept or reject the proposed sanctions. If the licensee accepts the order as proposed or revised through negotiation, the Agreed Order is presented to the full Board for final approval. Upon the Board’s formal acceptance, the Agreed Order goes into effect.
Formal Administrative Hearing
If after the Informal Conference the complaint remains unresolved, the licensee is entitled to a formal hearing presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at the State Office of Administration Hearings (SOAH). At this SOAH hearing, the licensee and the Board will present their respective cases at a trial requiring pre-hearing preparation, possible motion practice, the introduction of exhibits, and the testimony of witnesses. Post-hearing pleadings are usually required to include the exchange of written closing arguments.
After the hearing is concluded, the ALJ will examine the entire case record and provide a recommendation to all parties through a Proposal for Decision (PFD). The PFD will be sent to the Board for its consideration prior to a final decision and may require written responses from the parties. The final determination of the Board may follow the PFD or possibly deviate in significant ways. The outcome could be a dismissal, a fine, a reprimand, conditions of licensure, restriction on practice, or revocation of the license. A timely motion for rehearing may be necessary to preserve the licensee’s right to appeal the decision. If properly preserved, appellate relief may be sought through District Court.
Contact Experienced Texas Social Worker License Defense Attorneys
Throughout this entire process, from the initial complaint and investigation to the final determination by the Board, the assistance of an experienced Texas medical license defense attorney can be invaluable.
If a complaint has been filed against you or you otherwise think your Social Worker’s license is in jeopardy, make sure you have an attorney with the knowledge and experience to handle these types of license defense issues.
Contact McDonald, Mackay, Porter & Weitz, LLP for an initial consultation.