APPENDIX: PROFESSIONAL CODES OF ETHICS
Paul Leighton and Donna Killingbeck
Dept of Sociology, Eastern Michigan University
© 2000 Paul Leighton. Permission is freely given to distribute paper copies
at or below cost. All other rights, including electronic, are reserved. This
article appears in Paul Leighton & Jeffrey Reiman (eds) Criminal Justice
Ethics (Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2001).
links to the Codes and Organizations discussed in this paper are at the bottom
of the page
Professional ethics is about obligations related to a job or professional
role, such as a police officer or social worker. People engaged in these jobs
have important decision making power over the lives of others and professional
codes of ethics discuss how this power should be used. At their best, codes
acknowledge this power and make a public commitment that the power will not be
misused, especially for personal gain. Ideally, codes provide guidance about the
guiding values of the profession, specific ethical principles, and specific
Codes vary widely in how thoroughly and intelligently they accomplish these
tasks, so we have taken helpful language from several well developed codes to
help explain the structure of a professional code of ethics. This Appendix then
reproduces specific sections of codes that will be of general relevance to
readers of this book, for example on competence, cultural diversity, sexual
relationships, sexual harassment, and reporting information. At the end of this
Appendix are internet addresses for a variety of professional organizations that
have codes of ethics and a code of ethics library. We invite students to
research a code of ethics for a profession they are thinking of entering, or
better still read several complete codes of ethics. The code for the National
Association of Social Workers is especially notable for its advocacy of
individual self-determination and social justice.
|Profit Without Honor When It Comes to Ethics,
Schools Get an F: It was in 1987 that John S.R. Shad, then chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, made a personal donation of some $20 million to
Harvard Business School to support the teaching of ethics. On April 21, 1989, after months of contentious debate, an initial proposal was put up for a faculty-wide vote. Reactions ranged from distrust to outright hostility. One economist argued that "we are here to teach science." Another faculty member wanted to know, "Whose ethics, what values, are we going to teach?" And a third pointed out that the students were adults who got their ethics education at home and at church. By meeting's end, the project had been sent back to the drawing board.
|The American Journal of Sociology: Professional Ethics
|Essential Steps for Ethical Problem-Solving
from the Natl Assn of Social Work. They also have an Ethical
Dilemma of the Month
|Why are Values Important to a Company's Success?
Studying ethical codes does not guarantee ethical behavior on the part of
professionals. As the National Association of Social Work (NASW) code states,
"a code of ethics cannot resolve all ethical issues or disputes or capture
the richness and complexity involved in striving to make responsible choices
within a moral community. Rather, a code of ethics sets forth values, ethical
principles, and ethical standards to which professionals aspire and by which
their actions can be judged." The American Psychological Association (APA)
code adds: "The development of a dynamic set of ethical standards for a
psychologist's work-related conduct requires a personal commitment to a lifelong
effort to act ethically; to encourage ethical behavior by students, supervisees,
employees, and colleagues, as appropriate; and to consult with others, as
needed, concerning ethical problems."
THE STRUCTURE OF ETHICAL CODES
The better and more detailed codes of ethics start with a preamble, which
explains the role of the profession for society, acknowledges the power it has
and responsibilities that it. For example, the code of ethics for Child Welfare
Professionals (CWP) states:
Society delegates to the child welfare field and to those who become
members of the field the authority to intervene in the lives of families
with the goals of ensuring the safety of abused and neglected children,
assisting parents in meeting minimum parenting standards, and planning
alternative permanent care when parents are incapable of or unwilling to
meet those standards.
When individuals accept the role of child welfare professional and
the delegated authority inherent in that role, they publicly acknowledge
having the professional responsibilities which accompany that authority.
Society and agency clients, therefore, have legitimate expectations
about the nature of professional intervention as it occurs in one-on-one
professional/client interactions, in the management and administration
of those providing intervention, and in policy decision-making.
Because of their special knowledge and authority, all professionals
are in a position of power in inherently unequal relationships with
their clients. The power of child welfare professionals is particularly
daunting because of their delegated state authority and the mandated
nature of their professional/client relationships.
The introductions of many codes state general objectives of the profession.
The NASW code announces social workers "enhance human well-being and help
meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs
and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in
poverty." In addition, social workers "promote the general welfare of
society, from local to global levels," and "advocate for living
conditions conducive to the fulfillment of basic human needs and should promote
social, economic, political, and cultural values and institutions that are
compatible with the realization of social justice."
The code then moves from general statements to a set of ‘core values’:
service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human
relationships, integrity, competence. In turn, the core values are the
foundation for more specific ethical principles. The core value of service
produces the ethical principle: "Social workers’ primary goal is to help
people in need and to address social problems." The core value of social
justice produces the ethical principle that social workers challenge social
injustice. The core value of competence produces the ethical principle:
"Social workers practice within their areas of competence and develop and
enhance their professional expertise."
The ethical principles of any code are meant to articulate a common set of
values for the profession and provide goals to which members should aspire. In
addition, the ethical principles provide the foundation for a more specific set
of ethical standards that are the basis for charging someone with an
ethical violation before the professional association’s ethics committee. The
specific language also provides concrete detail for guidance in situations. Most
codes, for example, have an ethical principle against non-exploitation, and the
APA sets specific ethical standards that therapists cannot enter into sexual
relationships with former therapy patients for two years following the
termination of treatment – and then only under a specific set of circumstances
(see APA standard reproduced below).
Ethical standards are not exhaustive and cannot be made to cover all
situations. The American Society of Criminology’s (ASC) proposed code adds a
helpful note that: "Ethical standards are not simply determined by whether
an action is legally actionable; behavior that is technically legal may still be
unethical." The APA code also tries to be helpful about the relationship
between ethical standards and legal standards: "Whether or not a
psychologist has violated the Ethics Code does not by itself determine whether
he or she is legally liable in a court action, whether a contract is
enforceable, or whether other legal consequences occur. These results are based
on legal rather than ethical rules. However, compliance with or violation of the
Ethics Code may be admissible as evidence in some legal proceedings, depending
on the circumstances."
Even the specific ethical standards cannot cover the wide variety of real
life situations that create ethical dilemmas. Most of the codes note that
context is crucial to making a decision, and the NASW code is most helpful about
how to resolve conflicts:
In addition to this Code, there are many other sources of
information about ethical thinking that may be useful. Social workers
should consider ethical theory and principles generally, social work
theory and research, laws, regulations, agency policies, and other
relevant codes of ethics, recognizing that among codes of ethics social
workers should consider the NASW Code of Ethics as their primary
source. Social workers also should be aware of the impact on ethical
decision making of their clients’ and their own personal values and
cultural and religious beliefs and practices. They should be aware of
any conflicts between personal and professional values and deal with
them responsibly. For additional guidance social workers should consult
the relevant literature on professional ethics and ethical decision
making and seek appropriate consultation when faced with ethical
dilemmas. This may involve consultation with an agency-based or social
work organization’s ethics committee, a regulatory body, knowledgeable
colleagues, supervisors, or legal counsel.
Professionals who know the ethical course of conduct may face many
impediments to implementing it. Readers interested in the question of how to do
the right thing and still keep a job can consult Nan DeMars, You Want Me to
Do What? When, Where & How to Draw the Line at Work.
|Recommended: Israel, M (2004)
Ethics and the Governance of Criminological Research in
Australia. Report for the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and
Research. (101 pages, adobe/.pdf) Excellent survey of many current
ethical problems and controversies in criminology, with examples drawn
from different countries. Section 3 on the major ethical issues for
criminologists is a useful companion to examine how the ethical
standards below interact with the real world.
The full text of the codes are available through the internet addresses
provided below. Please note that the codes for the American Society of
Criminology (ASC) and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) are proposed;
the language has not been ratified by the membership of those organizations at
the time this Appendix was written.
CWP: Child welfare professionals should inform clients as soon as feasible
and in language that is understandable about the nature of the professional
relationship, the nature of the professional intervention, the professional's
delegated authority and the limits of that authority, which decisions the client
can make and which decisions the child welfare professional will make.
ASC: Criminologists should take culturally appropriate steps to secure
informed consent and to avoid invasions of privacy. In addition, special actions
will be necessary where the individuals studied are illiterate, are mentally
ill, are minors, have low social status, are not comfortable or familiar with
the language being used in the research, are under judicial or penal
supervision, or are unfamiliar with social research and its constraints and
APA: Psychologists who engage in assessment, therapy, teaching, research,
organizational consulting, or other professional activities maintain a
reasonable level of awareness of current scientific and professional information
in their fields of activity, and undertake ongoing efforts to maintain
competence in the skills they use.
NASW: Social workers who have direct knowledge of a social work colleague’s
impairment [or incompetence] that is due to personal problems, psychosocial
distress, substance abuse, or mental health difficulties and that interferes
with practice effectiveness should consult with that colleague when feasible and
assist the colleague in taking remedial action.
Case of Senior Partners v. Feeble, Dodder & Gray
(Washington Post, April 4, 2003; Page E01)
In the past, uncomfortable conversations about the competence of older lawyers have generally taken place quietly inside law firms.
Now law firms and ethics officials, increasingly uncomfortable with this ad hoc approach, are exploring whether a more organized system should be developed for dealing with older lawyers and their exit from the field.
"The concern is that lawyers are overstaying their abilities and ending up in the ethics system," said deputy bar counsel. "It's not the high point of a career to be prosecuting someone who is 80 years old and simply cannot handle the job anymore."
Cultural Competence and Social Diversity
NASW: (a) Social workers should understand culture and its function in human
behavior and society, recognizing the strengths that exist in all cultures (b)
Social workers should have a knowledge base of their clients’ cultures and be
able to demonstrate competence in the provision of services that are sensitive
to clients’ cultures and to differences among people and cultural groups (c)
Social workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature
of social diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national
origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, political belief,
religion, and mental or physical disability.
Privacy and Confidentiality
NASW: Social workers should take precautions to ensure and maintain the
confidentiality of information transmitted to other parties through the use of
computers, electronic mail, facsimile machines, telephones and telephone
answering machines, and other electronic or computer technology. Disclosure of
identifying information should be avoided whenever possible.
ASA: Sociologists use extreme care in delivering or transferring any
confidential data, information, or communication over public computer networks.
Sociologists are attentive to the problems of maintaining confidentiality and
control over sensitive material and data when use of technological innovations,
such as public computer networks, may open their professional and scientific
communication to unauthorized persons.
Conflict of Interest
APA: A psychologist refrains from entering into or promising another
personal, scientific, professional, financial, or other relationship with such
persons if it appears likely that such a relationship reasonably might impair
the psychologist's objectivity or otherwise interfere with the psychologist's
effectively performing his or her functions as a psychologist, or might harm or
exploit the other party.
happens when research shows that private prisons have lower recidivism, but
one of the authors is a board member, consultant, and stockholder of a
private prison company?
Supreme Court Justice Scalia created
conflict of interest controversy by going on a duck hunting trip with
Vice President Cheney at the same time there was a case pending about
whether documents from Cheney's Energy Task Force should be disclosed.
See Findlaw.com columns:
Non-exploitation & discrimination, general
NASW: Social workers should not take unfair advantage of any professional
relationship or exploit others to further their personal, religious, political,
or business interests.
ACJS: Members of the Academy should not coerce or obtain through manipulation
personal or sexual favors or economic or professional advantages from any
person, including students, respondents, clients, patients, research assistants,
clerical staff or colleagues. In addition, members of the Academy should
recognize that romantic or intimate relationships with individuals vulnerable to
manipulation, such as current students in their programs or employees under
their supervision, may create the appearance of, or opportunities for,
favoritism and/or exploitation, and thus such relationships should be avoided.
ASC: Criminologists do not have sexual relationships with anyone over whom
they exercise evaluative or supervisory power because of the potential for
exploitation and harm. Exercising professional authority over someone with whom
there has been a relationship should be avoided whenever possible because of the
likelihood of impaired judgment and the difficulty in maintaining professional
NASW: Social workers should not engage in sexual activities or sexual contact
with clients’ relatives or other individuals with whom clients maintain a
close personal relationship when there is a risk of exploitation or potential
harm to the client. Sexual activity or sexual contact with clients’ relatives
or other individuals with whom clients maintain a personal relationship has the
potential to be harmful to the client and may make it difficult for the social
worker and client to maintain appropriate professional boundaries. Social
workers—not their clients, their clients’ relatives, or other individuals
with whom the client maintains a personal relationship—assume the full burden
for setting clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries.
APA: (a) Psychologists do not engage in sexual intimacies with a former
therapy patient or client for at least two years after cessation or termination
of professional services (b) Because sexual intimacies with a former therapy
patient or client are so frequently harmful to the patient or client, and
because such intimacies undermine public confidence in the psychology profession
and thereby deter the public's use of needed services, psychologists do not
engage in sexual intimacies with former therapy patients and clients even after
a two-year interval except in the most unusual circumstances. The psychologist
who engages in such activity after the two years following cessation or
termination of treatment bears the burden of demonstrating that there has been
no exploitation, in light of all relevant factors, including (1) the amount of
time that has passed since therapy terminated, (2) the nature and duration of
the therapy, (3) the circumstances of termination, (4) the patient's or client's
personal history, (5) the patient's or client's current mental status, (6) the
likelihood of adverse impact on the patient or client and others, and (7) any
statements or actions made by the therapist during the course of therapy
suggesting or inviting the possibility of a post-termination sexual or romantic
relationship with the patient or client.
See also Power, Sex
& Friendship in Academia and the Washington Post article "The New Rules of Attraction:
With Bans on Office Romance Out the Window, Self-Policing Evolves"
ASC: Sexual harassment includes advances, solicitation, or requests for
sexual favors from those over whom an individual exercises professional
authority or with whom one attends classes or works. Harassment may consist of a
single intense act or multiple persistent acts that are unwelcome, offensive,
and/or that create a hostile work, school, or professional environment.
Harassment can include written or electronic communications and nonverbal
conduct such as touching, staring, or physically following an individual. It can
also include verbal behavior that reflects excessive attention to physical
appearance, especially after notice has been given that such attention is
ASA: Sociologists do not engage in harassment of any person, including
students, supervisees, employees, or research participants. Harassment consists
of a single intense and severe act or of multiple persistent or pervasive acts
which are demeaning, abusive, offensive, or create a hostile professional or
workplace environment. Sexual harassment may include sexual solicitation,
physical advance, or verbal or non-verbal conduct that is sexual in nature.
Racial harassment may include unnecessary, exaggerated, or unwarranted attention
or attack, whether verbal or non-verbal, because of a person's race or
APA: (a) Psychologists do not engage in sexual harassment. Sexual harassment
is sexual solicitation, physical advances, or verbal or nonverbal conduct that
is sexual in nature, that occurs in connection with the psychologist's
activities or roles as a psychologist, and that either: (1) is unwelcome, is
offensive, or creates a hostile workplace environment, and the psychologist
knows or is told this; or (2) is sufficiently severe or intense to be abusive to
a reasonable person in the context. Sexual harassment can consist of a single
intense or severe act or of multiple persistent or pervasive acts. (b)
Psychologists accord sexual-harassment complainants and respondents dignity and
respect. Psychologists do not participate in denying a person academic
admittance or advancement, employment, tenure, or promotion, based solely upon
their having made, or their being the subject of, sexual harassment charges.
This does not preclude taking action based upon the outcome of such proceedings
or consideration of other appropriate information.
See also: Are "Friends" Writers "Required" To Engage in Sexual Banter, Even If the Effect Is Harassing?
(interesting discussion from Findlaw.com column)
As the sun sets this week on "Friends," NBC's long-running hit sitcom, the writers, producers and network remain embroiled in litigation. At trial, a judge and jury will determine whether the writers' crude sexual remarks and gestures created a hostile environment for a female
assistant or whether they can be excused by 'creative necessity.'
ACJS: Human subjects have the right to full disclosure of the purposes of the
research as early as it is appropriate to the research process, and they have
the right to an opportunity to have their questions answered about the purpose
and usage of the research. Members should not deceive research participants
about significant aspects of the research that would affect their willingness to
participate such as physical risks, discomfort, or unpleasant emotional
APA: Psychologists trained in research methods and experienced in the care of
laboratory animals supervise all procedures involving animals and are
responsible for ensuring appropriate consideration of their comfort, health, and
humane treatment. Psychologists make reasonable efforts to minimize the
discomfort, infection, illness, and pain of animal subjects. A procedure
subjecting animals to pain, stress, or privation is used only when an
alternative procedure is unavailable and the goal is justified by its
prospective scientific, educational, or applied value.
When it is appropriate that the animal's life be terminated, it is done
rapidly, with an effort to minimize pain.
Authorship, Acknowledgement & Plagiarism
ASC: When a criminologist is involved in a joint project with
others--including students, research assistants, and employees, there should be
mutually accepted explicit agreements at the outset with respect to division of
work, compensation, access to data, rights of authorship, and other rights and
responsibilities. Such agreements may need to be modified as the project evolves
and such modifications must be agreed upon jointly. Authorship of a completed
article or product should reflect the relative contribution of authors in terms
of data gathering, analysis, text, and original work and not the relative
professional status of the authors. Students should normally be the principal
authors of any work that substantially derives from their thesis or
APA: Principal authorship and other publication credits accurately reflect
the relative scientific or professional contributions of the individuals
involved, regardless of their relative status. Mere possession of an
institutional position, such as Department Chair, does not justify authorship
credit. Minor contributions to the research or to the writing for publications
are appropriately acknowledged, such as in footnotes or in an introductory
ASA: In publications, presentations, teaching, practice, and service,
sociologists explicitly identify, credit, and reference the author when they
take data or material verbatim from another person's written work, whether it is
published, unpublished, or electronically available. In their publications,
presentations, teaching, practice, and service, sociologists provide
acknowledgment of and reference to the use of others' work, even if the work is
not quoted verbatim or paraphrased, and they do not present others' work as
their own whether it is published, unpublished, or electronically available.
ASC: When acting as teachers, criminologists should provide students an
honest statement of the scope and perspective of their courses, clear
expectations for student performance, and fair, timely and easily accessible
evaluations of their work.
APA: Psychologists responsible for education and training programs seek to
ensure that there is a current and accurate description of the program content,
training goals and objectives, and requirements that must be met for
satisfactory completion of the program. This information must be made readily
available to all interested parties
ASA: Sociologists do not permit personal animosities or intellectual
differences with colleagues to foreclose students' or supervisees' access to
these colleagues or to interfere with student or supervisee learning, academic
progress, or professional development.
Reporting Research and Information
ASA: Sociologists do not fabricate data or falsify results in their
publications or presentations. In presenting their work, sociologists report
their findings fully and do not omit relevant data. They report results whether
they support or contradict the expected outcomes. Sociologists take particular
care to state all relevant qualifications on the findings and interpretation of
their research. Sociologists also disclose underlying assumptions, theories,
methods, measures, and research designs that might bear upon findings and
interpretations of their work.
APA: Psychologists do not make public statements that are false, deceptive,
misleading, or fraudulent, either because of what they state, convey, or suggest
or because of what they omit, concerning their research, practice, or other work
activities or those of per- sons or organizations with which they are
affiliated. As examples (and not in limitation) of this standard, psychologists
do not make false or deceptive statements concerning (1) their training,
experience, or competence; (2) their academic degrees; (3) their credentials;
(4) their institutional or association affiliations; (5) their services; (6) the
scientific or clinical basis for, or results or degree of success of, their
services; (7) their fees; or (8) their publications or research findings…Psychologists
do not compensate employees of press, radio, television, or other communication
media in return for publicity in a news item.
Social and Political Action
NASW: Social workers should engage in social and political action that seeks
to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment,
services, and opportunities they require to meet their basic human needs and to
develop fully. Social workers should be aware of the impact of the political
arena on practice and should advocate for changes in policy and legislation to
improve social conditions in order to meet basic human needs and promote social
justice. Social workers should act to expand choice and opportunity for all
people, with special regard for vulnerable, disadvantaged, oppressed, and
exploited people and groups. Social workers should promote conditions that
encourage respect for cultural and social diversity within the United States and
globally. Social workers should promote policies and practices that demonstrate
respect for difference, support the expansion of cultural knowledge and
resources, advocate for programs and institutions that demonstrate cultural
competence, and promote policies that safeguard the rights of and confirm equity
and social justice for all people. Social workers should act to prevent and
eliminate domination of, exploitation of, and discrimination against any person,
group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex,
sexual orientation, age, marital status, political belief, religion, or mental
or physical disability.