Code of Ethics

Purpose

This Code is designed to provide a set of high standards for EAP practitioners and encourage conduct that will enhance the EA field’s mission, reinforce its values, and promote quality EA services. The Code is central to who we are as EAP practitioners and compliance is essential to your duty as a valued member of EASNA and practitioner in the EA profession.

Note regarding gender pronouns: Since alternating or replacing pronouns such as “he” or “she” and “him” or “her” can be distracting, this Code uses the generic “he” or “him.” This is not intended to reflect any gender bias.

Competence

EAP practitioners are responsible for recognizing the limitations of their competence and for making certain that all work is performed within those limitations. When providing services or using procedures in which he is not fully trained and experienced, the practitioner works only under the supervision of a fully qualified person who is recognized as competent in those services and procedures. It is evidence of poor judgment, and may be unethical, for a practitioner to offer services or use procedures that are not generally accepted by professional colleagues as representing the prevailing standard of practice.

Misrepresentation

The EAP practitioner does not misrepresent his own professional qualifications, affiliations, competence, or purposes of his colleagues or the institutions, agencies, and organizations with which he is associated. The practitioner is responsible for correcting any other person who misrepresents his qualifications, competence, affiliations, and purposes. It is unethical to use one’s membership in or affiliation with the Employee Assistance Society of North America or any other association or organization to represent or imply qualification or competence when such membership or affiliation is not contingent upon the passing of an examination or other criteria designed to assess competence as an EAP practitioner.

Public Statements

When an EAP practitioner is called upon to interpret, explain or demonstrate knowledge of specific EAP procedures or their application to clients, the general public, or the media, he does so accurately, objectively, and fairly, and within the limits of his personal competence. Public statements made by an EAP practitioner who is part of a larger organization or agency are formulated with consideration of their impact on the parent organization.

Announcements of advertisements of services offered or available to the public conform to professional standards and avoid the inclusion of statements or promises, which are inaccurate, incomplete or misleading.

Client’s Informed Consent

A primary concern of the EAP practitioner is to protect the client’s rights as a consumer of EAP services and to support the client’s right to consent to matters related to assessment and the implementation of a treatment plan. The practitioner assumes responsibility for the client’s understanding of all important aspects of the potential or existing assessment or treatment relationship and of any factor which might affect the client’s decision to enter into such a relationship.

When a client is misinformed or misunderstands any element of the professional relationship, the practitioner is willing to be held accountable and responsible for failure to correct the misinformation, misunderstanding, or misperception of the client. These elements include the limits of confidentiality, whether interviews will be recorded and if information obtained will be used for training or research purposes, the type of intervention(s) contemplated, and whether the client is being treated by a procedure which is experimental in nature or as part of a research study.

Relation With The Client

Integrity is the fundamental quality of any professional relationship. This essential element requires that the client is free from doubt about the EAP practitioner’s trustworthiness and capacity for ethical practice. The following are guidelines for the establishment and preservation of an ethical practitioner-client relationship:

  1. The practitioner constantly maintains a professional manner in his personal contacts with the client, the client’s family and associates.
  2. The practitioner constantly safeguards the welfare of his client within the bounds of his responsibility. It is an essential responsibility of EAP service that the practitioner ensures continuity of care by following up on the progress of referrals made to other agencies or practitioners after his direct contact with the client has ended.
  3. The practitioner does not allow any personal obligation or gain or any other conflict of interest to enter into the professional relationship with a client.
  4. An ethical professional relationship with a client is free from any behavior on the part of a practitioner which is, or has the appearance of being, abusive or damaging to the client or which exploits the relationship for the satisfaction of the needs or the desires of the practitioner.
  5. The practitioner always terminates a clinical relationship immediately upon evidence that the client cannot be reasonably expected to benefit from a continuation of it.
  6. The practitioner ensures and provides for an appropriate setting for all clinical work, both for the protection of himself and the client.
  7. Any dual relationship involving a practitioner and a client may raise questions of poor judgment and questionable ethical behavior. A practitioner who has a pre-existing social relationship with someone seeking service carefully evaluates his capacity to engage professionally with that person. Except under unusual and special circumstances such situations are best handled by an appropriate referral.
  8. Any form of romantic involvement or sexual activity between a practitioner and a client is unethical.
  9. The practitioner conscientiously seeks peer or supervisory consultations in client management, especially when he encounters difficulties or has reason to question the appropriateness of his client relationship.
  10. The ethical practitioner serves his clients in a conscientious and efficient manner. He is obliged to provide services promptly. When it can be foreseen that there will be a delay in the initiation of such service, the practitioner informs the client and offers to make an appropriate referral.

Confidentiality And Anonymity

The EAP practitioner protects the client’s right to privacy with reference both to confidentiality and anonymity. Anonymity refers to non-disclosure of the identity of a client. Confidentiality refers to the private, non-disclosable nature of information obtained in the communication between a client and practitioner.

A practitioner provides effective professional service only when there is complete and unreserved communication between himself and his client. The client has the right to feel completely secure in the choice to use EAP services and is entitled to assume that matters discussed with, or information disclosed to, the practitioner will be held in strictest confidence.

Whenever any limitation or exception exists to complete confidentiality (e.g., the obligation to report child abuse, etc.), the ethical practitioner declares and explains these limits of confidentiality before continuing in a professional relationship with the client. The ethical practitioner does not use a naive understanding or interpretation of a confidentiality principle as an excuse to avoid his responsibility, under the law or otherwise, to make appropriate disclosure when the life, health, or safety of either the client or others is in peril. Ethical practice demands the seeking of consultation whenever questions arise in this vital area of EAP service.

Client Records

The requirement of confidentiality applies to all written records maintained as a consequence of providing professional EAP service. The practitioner gives careful consideration to the following issues when deciding what information is to be collected from clients and recorded in files:

  1. Every item of information in the record is related to the stated purposes of the individual or agency providing service.
  2. Records maintained for clinical purposes contain only such information as is necessary to optimum clinical service and avoid references to events or client behavior which have no direct relevance.
  3. Personal values and judgments of the practitioner are not appropriate in EAP records and are avoided when describing client history or behavior.
  4. Every entry in a client’s record is as complete as possible and contains factual information necessary to give an adequate representation of the presenting problem, services rendered, and progress to date. The practitioner establishes procedures to review entries, correct errors, and otherwise ensure the accuracy of information contained.
  5. Information intended to be current is subject to continual review and updating. Information which is no longer relevant and/or no longer accurate is deleted.
  6. It is good practice for the practitioner to assume when making entries in the patient record that the entry may be subject, on judicial order, to be read publicly in open court in the presence of the client.

The practitioner gives careful consideration to the following items when deciding upon the proper use of information collected and stored in patient records:

  1. Information in the client’s record is the property of the client. The client retains the right to know of the existence of recorded information and to prevent the unauthorized use of that information for purposes other than that for which it was obtained.
  2. The practitioner obtains permission in writing from the client before any use or disclosure is made of information contained in the client’s record.
  3. Client information is used for instructional purposes only when the identity of the individual client has been appropriately and completely disguised.
  4. Written reports or discussions about a client are limited to only those persons who have a clear involvement with the client’s case and a legitimate need to have the information involved.

Withdrawl Of Services

When a professional relationship has been established, the practitioner continues to provide those services to the best of his ability unless there is a clearly justifiable cause for terminating the relationship. In such instances, the practitioner informs the client of the reasons for termination and assumes responsibility for making an appropriate referral to another practitioner or agency if a continuation of service is consistent with the client’s welfare. A practitioner does not threaten withdrawal of service as a means of obtaining cooperation from the client.

Referrals

Efficiency and effectiveness of the referral process is a cornerstone of ethical EAP service. The practitioner is responsible for making himself thoroughly familiar with the private and public service providers available in his area before attempting to offer EAP service to the public. Referrals are made to resources appropriate to the client’s needs as quickly as possible after adequate evaluation and assessment has been completed. Any delay in making or implementing a referral is explained thoroughly to the client.

An agency or individual practitioner providing EAP services is ethically obligated to clients to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest in the referral process. It is unethical behavior for the EAP practitioner to make, or fail to make, a referral to a service provider for purely personal or organizational financial gain.

Practitioners who perform initial assessment may retain clients for therapeutic intervention or transfer them to other programs or practitioners within their own organization only after complying with the following procedures:

  • full disclosure is made (to both employer and client) regarding any affiliations with proposed referral options
  • the EA practitioner “objectively” presents more than one referral option to the client
  • the referral is clinically justifiable (in the best interests of the client)
  • the referring EA practitioner does not receive any direct gain or financial remuneration for referring clients to particular programs or practitioners
  • the employer’s utilization/service summary report should contain detailed information on patterns/sources of referrals beyond the EAP for continuing care and treatment.

It is also advisable for the EAP to institute a peer review approach to monitor and evaluate the quality and appropriateness of referrals. EA practitioners should strive to avoid the under use of referral plans (failure to refer to a resource that provides effective interventions), overuse of referral plans (unnecessary interventions or treatment for inappropriate indications), or misuse of referral plans (interventions causing preventable complications).

Relationship with Other Practitioners and Professionals

Independent assessments, second opinions, and case monitoring contracts are the heart of the EAP activity and may generate treatment recommendations that displace previous clinical arrangements made by the client. When establishing a professional relationship with a client, a practitioner determines to the best of his ability that all previous professional service providers have either withdrawn or been discharged by the client or will be coordinated into the treatment plan that follows the assessment.

When it is necessary to engage professionally with a client in an emergency situation, the practitioner limits his service only to that which is necessary to respond to the emergency and immediately advises other professional persons responsible for the client of his actions.

Personal Relationship And Activities

An EAP practitioner is cognizant of his obligation to safeguard both his own reputation and that of professional colleagues and clients. Therefore he is aware of, and maintains constant consideration of, social codes and moral expectations of the community in which he works. A practitioner avoids any behavior, activities, or associations which may adversely impact his capacity to be perceived as an ethical provider of EAP services. A practitioner does not allow his involvement with any activity, persons, or interests to interfere with the quality of service provided or his professional judgment and performance on behalf of his clients.

Business Practices

Pricing/Billing

  1. Capitation. EAPs that are priced using “Capitation” or a fixed sum per month or year for each covered employee of a defined workforce, have an ethical obligation to carefully assess the adequacy of a capitation rate to make sure that proposed service levels are not threatened by rates too low to fulfill the EAP’s contractual obligation. It is unethical to knowingly put forth a bid that is insufficient to fund the program as proposed. Capitation payments should be calculated primarily on the costs associated with proposed services, projected utilization rates and promotional campaigns, other relevant characteristics of the workforce, and consensus oriented standards of what constitutes or defines an EAP. EAPs should not assume inordinate levels of financial risk and should have a method to ensure that clients are protected from the potential negative effects of budgetary shortfalls in prepaid, capitated plans or “low ball” rates.
  2. Fee-for-service. EAPs that are priced on a fee-for-service basis or offer extra cost-added components or features in addition to a capitated rate (e.g. trainings, critical incident debriefing, promotional materials, etc.) need to disclose in proposals and contracts the full price of any purchase for fee-for-service product offerings, including those services that are “carved-out” or separated from the capitated bid.
  3. Billings. Billing for EAP services must be accurate and done in a timely and professional fashion in accordance with commonly acceptable accounts receivable standards. EAPs that utilize affiliate providers or subcontractors to render EA services are responsible for paying affiliate claims in a timely and accurate basis.

Reporting

All reports to employers or client organizations should accurately, honestly, and fairly reflect the activities and utilization of the EAP in reasonable detail, and provide a comprehensive accounting of the program’s services in accordance with EASNA standards and applicable confidentiality laws and regulations. This Code prohibits false or misleading reports for any reason and encourages the EAP to clearly and sufficiently define for the employer how utilization rates are calculated and reported, how a case is defined, along with any specific formulas that are utilized.

Marketing And Sales

EA practitioners that market, propose, or sell EA services must be truthful, fair, accurate, complete, and sensitive to the employers’ organizational needs and the employee clients’ personal needs and not raise unrealistic expectations. EA practitioners engaged in marketing, sales, and account management activities shall:

  • accurately and honestly market or sell only those services that are deliverable within the professional and technical limits and capabilities of the program
  • avoid false or misleading statements or advertisements
  • promote accurate expectations and understandable information in proposals and marketing materials
  • promote service usage levels reflective of high quality standards of practice
  • protect, in good faith, the independence of ethical evaluations and referral practices
  • reject sales tactics or promotions that use deception or manipulation
  • disclose all substantial risks associated with the usage of the proposed service or particular service components
  • identify any service component substitution or future plan that might materially change the proposed service or impact the buyer’s purchase decision

Policies And Procedures For Processing Ethical Complaints

Section A – Introduction

  1. EASNA, in furthering its mission and objectives, provides a Code of Ethics and Conduct (“Code”) to its members that has been developed and approved by the Board of Directors. This Code is designed to provide a set of high standards for EASNA members and promote conduct that will enhance EASNA’s ability to achieve its mission and reinforce its values as a professional Society. The Code is a critical component of EASNA’s commitment to quality standards.
  2. The purpose of this document is to support the work of the Ethics Committee by specifying the procedures for handling cases of alleged violations of the Code, determining options for sanctioning members, and stating an appeals process. The intent of EASNA is to promote compliance of its Code, however, EASNA cannot warrant the performance or professional conduct of any individual member.
  3. The Ethics Committee is a standing committee of EASNA comprised of at least three but no more than five members, one of whom must be a director on the Board. Vacancies are filled by appointment by the SEA Director of Quality, subject to approval by the Board Chair. Appointments are for a three-year term and committee members may be re-appointed for no more than one additional consecutive term.
  4. EASNA members, as well as members of allied professions and associations, have a professional obligation to promptly report any behavior or conduct by an EASNA member that reasonably appears to violate the Code and is not resolved at the local level between the complainant and the member in question.

Section B – Role, Function, Responsibility of Ethics Committee Members

  1. Assist in educating the membership on the EASNA Code and ethical issues in the field.
  2. On an annual basis, review the Code and these Policies and Procedures and recommend changes to the Board.
  3. Receive and process complaints of alleged violations of the Code.
  4. Receive and process requests for interpretations of the Code. Compile objective, factual accounts of any complaints or disputes in question and utilize these procedures with fairness and objectivity, acting only to further the interests of EASNA and the profession.
  5. Safeguard the confidentiality of the Committee’s activities, including the identity of any involved individuals, during the course of investigations of alleged complaints.
  6. Recuse oneself from investigating or voting on a complaint where a conflict of interest exists.
  7. Provide an annual report to the Board, without violating any individual members confidentiality, specifying the numbers, types, findings, and disposition of all complaints and requests for interpretation that come to the Ethics Committee.
  8. Process complaints and requests for interpretation in a reasonable time period.

Section C – Jurisdiction and Eligibility

  1. The Ethics Committee will consider whether individuals have violated the EASNA Code only if those individuals are current EASNA members or were EASNA members when the alleged violations occurred.
  2. The Ethics Committee will receive complaints from other EASNA members, members of other helping professions or disciplines, or any individual who has reason to believe that EASNA members have violated the EASNA Code.
  3. Individuals wanting to file complaints should make a good faith attempt, when possible, to resolve complaints directly with the charged EASNA member before formally engaging the Ethics Committee. Consultations and preliminary interpretations with the Chair (or Committee designee) are encouraged prior to formally submitting a written complaint.

Section D – Communication and Filing of Complaints

  1. Only written communications regarding ethical complaints against EASNA members will be acceptable, signed and dated by complainants. Anonymous reporting of complaints is not allowed due to the probable difficulties encountered in any subsequent investigations.
  2. Written communication should be addressed to the Chair of the Ethics Committee and include, if possible, (a) contact information of the complainant, (b) contact information of the charged member, (c) contact information of any other key persons with knowledge of the facts of the charge, and (d) a brief description of the reason why the complaint is being filed and an opinion about which section of the EASNA Code has been violated.
  3. The Chair will consult the EASNA staff liaison to make certain the complaint involves a member as defined in Section C.1.
  4. The Chair, in consultation with at least one other Committee member, will determine whether the complaint, if true, would violate one or more sections of the EASNA Code. If not, the complaint will not be accepted and the complainant shall be notified in writing.
  5. If the Chair, in consultation with at least one other Committee member, determines that sufficient cause exists to further investigate whether the alleged behavior in the complaint could be cause for action by EASNA, then the Chair, Committee members, or staff liaison may request further information from the complainant or others. The burden of proving a violation of the Code is on the complainant and/or the Committee. The charged member does not have to prove his or her innocence of any wrongdoing or ethical violations.
  6. Copies of the written complaint plus other documented evidence in support of the complaint will be provided to the charged member. The complainant must authorize release of such information to the charged member before the investigation may proceed.
  7. Charged members will be sent a copy of the formal complaint and asked to respond to the complaint against them in writing, within sixty (60) days. If the Chair, in consultation with at least one other Committee member, determines that insufficient information still exists to make a determination, a request for further information from the charged member or others may be requested.
  8. The Chair may delay or postpone his or her review of the case with good cause if time is required to obtain additional information.

Section E – Disposition of Complaints

  1. After receiving a written response from the charged member, Committee members will be provided copies of the complaint, supporting evidence from either the complainant or charged member, and the response. The Committee will then deliberate, based only on the evidence in the above documentation, to determine the outcome of the complaint. This deliberation will generally occur by teleconference within thirty days from the day the Committee members receive all necessary documentation.
  2. After deliberations, the Committee may decide to dismiss the complaint or charges, determine whether the Code has been violated based on the information provided, or request a hearing, usually by teleconference call. The decision of the Committee need not be unanimous but must include agreement by at least three members, or the charges will be dismissed. Formal hearing procedures and rules of order are provided in a separate document and are available upon request by contacting the Chair, Ethics Committee.
  3. If the Code has been violated pursuant to E.2. above, the Committee will impose one or more sanctions, in consultation with the SEA Quality Director (or President of EASNA if Quality Director is unavailable)
  4. If the complainant and charged member both agree to discontinue the investigative process, the Committee may accept the withdrawal or complete the adjudication process if warranted by the documented evidence.
  5. Charged members will be notified in writing of EASNA decisions regarding complaints against them, with return-receipt requested. Within thirty (30) days of receiving this notification, charged members have a right to request an appeal of the decision. The filing of an appeal automatically stays the execution of a decision.
  6. After the deadline for filing an appeal, or if after an appeals decision has been rendered and the member is still found in violation, and the member has been suspended or expelled, then EASNA reserves the right to notify any licensure, certification, or registry boards of the results of EASNA findings as well as publish any imposed sanctions in the Society newsletter.
  7. In the event a final decision has been rendered and new substantial evidence is presented, the Ethics Committee may reopen the case.
  8. In the event any legal action is filed regarding a filed complaint, all actions and decisions by the Ethics Committee will be stayed until the legal action is concluded. The Committee will consult with legal counsel regarding if and how the Committee should proceed.

Section F – Records

  1. Committee records regarding complaints are confidential and the Chair of the Committee maintains original copies.
  2. Committee members will keep copies of complaints confidential and will destroy copies of records after a case has been closed or they are no longer a member of the Committee.

Section G – Appeals

  1. Decisions of the EASNA Ethics Committee may be appealed by the charged member based on: (a) the decision was arbitrary or capricious and not supported by the provided written materials; or (b) the Committee violated these procedures for processing complaints.
  2. The appeal must consist of a signed and dated letter stating one or both of the grounds listed in G.1. and should be sent to the SEA Director of Quality.
  3. The SEA Director of Quality, in consultation with the EASNA President, will appoint a three (3) person panel (none of whom served on the Committee during the relevant investigation) to review the evidence provided to the Ethics Committee when it made its decision.
  4. This appeals panel will not consider evidence that was not presented to the Ethics Committee and will render a decision within sixty (60) days of receiving materials based on a majority vote.
  5. The decision of the appeals panel is limited to: (a) upholding the decision of the Committee; (b) upholding the decision but reversing or modifying any sanctions, or (c) recommending reconsideration of the Committee’s decision and providing written guidance to the SEA Director of Quality and President to reverse the decision on remand.
  6. The President, at his or her discretion, may appoint an EASNA consulting attorney to serve as a legal advisor and have the privilege of the floor during any appeals process.
  7. When a Committee decision is reversed by the SEA Director of Quality and the President, the complainant and charged member will be informed in writing. This decision will be final.

Sources:

Governing Council, American Counseling Association (1997). Policies and Procedures for Processing Complaints of Ethical Violations, Alexandria, VA.

Strom-Gottfried, K. (2000) Ensuring ethical practice: An examination of NASW Code Violations. Social Work, Volume 45, Number 3, May.