If the matter is not dismissed and a settlement cannot be reached, the case will be scheduled for a formal public hearing. The Board will give the certificate holder or licensee in a contested case a Notice of Charges setting forth the allegations and hearing date. In some cases, the Board may issue an order summarily suspending a certificate or license. Upon service of the order, the certificate holder or licensee must immediately cease the practice of social work in North Carolina. The Board will then promptly give notice of formal hearing. The suspension will remain in effect pending a final agency decision.
All formal hearings are conducted by the Board. The Social Worker/licensee has the right to present evidence in defense, including calling witnesses and introducing exhibits, making objections, cross-examining any witness called by the Board, and making a closing argument. If they have not done so already, many Social Workers/LCSWs decide that they need to retain a firm or attorney at the formal public hearing stage.
Possible Discipline and Outcomes of the Public Hearing
After a formal hearing, the Social Work Board may issue an Order determining there has been a violation and imposing discipline. The Board may, in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 150B of the General Statutes, deny, suspend, or revoke an application, certificate, or license of a Social Worker/LCSW on any of the following grounds:
- Conviction of a misdemeanor or the entering of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to a misdemeanor under this Chapter;
- Conviction of a felony or the entering of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to a felony under the laws of the United States or of any state of the United States;
- Gross unprofessional conduct, dishonest practice or incompetence in the practice of social work;
- Procuring or attempting to procure a certificate or license by fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation;
- Any fraudulent or dishonest conduct in social work;
- Inability of the person to perform the functions for which he or she is certified or licensed, or substantial impairment of abilities by reason of physical or mental disability; or
- Violations of any of the provisions of this Chapter or of rules of the Board.
The Board may also impose conditions of probation or restrictions upon continued practice at the conclusion of a period of suspension or as a requirement for the restoration of a revoked or suspended certificate or license.
If the Board determines an applicant, certificate holder, or licensee has engaged in any of the prohibited actions listed above, the Board may, in lieu of denial, suspension, or revocation, take one or more of the following actions:
- Issue a reprimand or censure;
- Order probation with conditions deemed appropriate by the Board;
- Require examination, remediation, or rehabilitation, including care, counseling, or treatment by a professional designated or approved by the Board, the cost of which shall be borne by the applicant, certificate holder, or licensee. Specifically, in considering whether an applicant, certificate holder, or licensee is mentally or physically capable of practicing social work with reasonable skill and safety, the Board may require an applicant, certificate holder, or licensee to submit to a mental examination by a licensed clinical social worker or other licensed mental health professional designated by the Board and to a physical examination by a physician or other licensed health professional designated by the Board. The examination may be ordered by the Board before or after charges are presented against the applicant, certificate holder, or licensee and the results of the examination shall be reported directly to the Board and shall be admissible in evidence in a hearing before the Board;
- Require supervision for the services provided by the applicant, certificate holder, or licensee by a certified or licensed social worker designated and approved by the Board, the cost of which shall be borne by the applicant, certificate holder, or licensee; and/or
- Limit or circumscribe the practice of social work provided by the applicant, certificate holder, or licensee with respect to the extent, nature, or location of the services provided.
An Order issued by the Board may be appealed to Superior Court. Generally, it is much more difficult for a licensee to prevail once the matter reaches the court system on an appeal, even if he or she retains legal counsel at that point.