Complaint #10.32

Printable
    

ACSW Complaint No 10.32

 

On September 12, 13, and 21, 2011, a tribunal established by the ACSW under the authority of the Health Professions Act 80 (1) HPA met to consider a complaint brought by Ms. Cythia Busche-Hiebert against the member.

 

The tribunal heard evidence from the investigated Social Worker; the complainant and such witnesses as were presented by either party.

 

The findings of the tribunal are as follows:

Allegations:

Inappropriate interaction with coworkers

 

(1)   That you requested C meet you in your office after working hours on March 31, 2010 for an inappropriate purpose.

-         The tribunal rules there is insufficient evidence to support this allegation.

(2)   The you asked C inappropriate questions including issues relating to family, weight, past an present boyfriends, marriages, relationships and issues of trust and sexual matters.

-         The tribunal finds that there were inappropriate conversations and/or questions and that this behavior constitutes unprofessional conduct.

(3)   That you engaged in an inappropriate conversation with C specifically asking her sexually explicit questions.

-         The tribunal finds that you did ask questions of a sexually explicit nature and that this behavior constitutes unprofessional conduct 80 (1) HPA.

(4)   That you took steps to isolate C in your office by closing the window blinds.

-         Although closing the window blinds was considered questionable practice by the tribunal, there was no clear evidence that steps were taken to isolate C. Consequently, the Tribunal finds that this does not constitute unprofessional conduct 80 (1) HPA.

(5)   That you did or attempted to undo C’s jacket.

-         The tribunal found that there was insufficient evidence to support this allegation. Consequently, this does not constitute unprofessional conduct 80 (1) HPA.

(6)   That at the conclusion of the meeting you took the opportunity to hug C.

-         The tribunal found that you did hug C as she left the office. While this action may be appropriate in some circumstances, it was determined to be unprofessional within the context of the inappropriate discussion and questioning that had already taken place. The tribunal finds that this does constitute unprofessional conduct.

(7)   Such further and other allegations of unprofessional conduct as may be heard at the hearing of this matter and upon which you shall provide notice.

-         The tribunal did not make any additional findings at this hearing.

 

Reasons:

In making its decisions the tribunal has relied on those pieces of information what were agreed to by both parties. While important information was provided by the complainant, the member and several witnesses, some information remained uncorroborated. The tribunal’s decision rests heavily upon the information which was substantiated by more than one party.

 

The member admitted that he initiated a conversation with C regarding her intimate relationships with men, including her age when she first became intimately involved, as well as how she simultaneously maintained past and current relationships. Furthermore, the member admitted that the underlying question related to ascertaining when she first had sexual relations. The tribunal further notes that the conversation took place after hours, in a building that had no other people present. Given the member’s senior position and professional status, the obligation to sustain a conversation that was professional and respectful and one in which both parties felt comfortable, was his. The member failed to do this and, in fact, perpetuated a line of questioning surrounding arranged marriages and premarital sex that should not have happened. In itself this constitutes unprofessional conduct.

 

The member was unable to satisfy this tribunal that he employs a purposeful self- appraisal method. Self-appraisal intended to evaluate the member’s practice and his relationship with clients, coworkers and the general public is imperative in order to be cognizant of potential ethical issues and to ensure that his practice abides by the ACSW Standards. It is the tribunal’s view that the member should not have initiated, nor perpetuated, a conversation that was so personal during a second meeting of a junior colleague.

 

The tribunal acknowledges the testimony of several witnesses, including the complainant. These witnesses stated that, in their opinion, the member was dedicated to helping people, that he had been a valuable member of the social work staff, that he was missed in that role since leaving, and that, to his credit, he had successfully worked with some ‘difficult-to-reach’ groups.

 

Remedy:

It is of upmost importance that the member takes from this experience an understanding and appreciation of his role and responsibility as a professional. To this end the tribunal has agreed:

            -That the member take a University level course focusing on communication and boundaries and that he demonstrate an understanding of its content by writing a response to the course which ties what he has learned to this experience and identifies his understanding on how to ensure his interactions with clients and coworkers or anyone else remain professional. This document should reflect the member’s developing ability to adhere to the Social Work Standards of Practice that follow from the Code of Ethics relating to issues of boundaries and is to be submitted to the ACSW.

           

            -That when/if the member takes a social work position, he works with a supervisor acceptable to the ACSW to identify and develop strategies around issues related to boundaries, communication and ethics in his practice. Supervision should cover a minimal period of one year. The cost of the supervision will be the responsibility of the member.

 

            -That the findings of this tribunal be publicized by ACSW without names or identifying information with a view to educating social workers and in accordance with social work regulations.

 

            -The tribunal offers as a suggestion that the member engage with a counselor to process this experience and gain an increased understanding of his obligation to maintain appropriate boundaries. Such engagement could also assist with the undoubtedly high level of stress that this event has generated for the member and his family. Counseling is available on a sliding scale fee (geared to income) from several agencies. While this is not a requirement it remains a recommendation for the member.

           

            -The member considers obtaining professional insurance as a social worker.

 

Per:

Hearing Tribunal

Copyright 2010 Alberta College of Social Workers