The Ethics Process described here meets the requirements of due process, creates opportunities for more member involvement, and at the same time eliminates redundancies in the existing process. Due process requires notice of the charges and an opportunity to be heard. The formality and procedural requirements for due process vary depending on the importance of the interest involved. The due process right to a hearing can properly be limited to the right to make a written submission. An oral hearing is not required by due process in each instance.
This process eliminates the overlap between the functions of the existing Ethics Commission and the Disciplinary Council and combines in one body (the Ethics Review Panel) the forum for respondent’s right to a hearing and the responsibility to make the determination of whether there is a violation and imposition of the sanctions. The process invites greater member participation by creating a pool of qualified members to serve on the Ethics Review Panel. This process saves resources by calling for the imposition of sanctions automatically in the case of de jure complaints where other organizations (state regulatory boards, NBCOT) have made the decision to impose a sanction after evaluating the facts and providing the respondent with an opportunity to be heard.
- Step 1: AOTA may consider ethics complaints emanating from a variety of sources, but not limited too:
- Sua Sponte complaints initiated internally from information received from public media
- Member complaints
- De Jure complaints initiated internally based on information from another official body (state regulatory board, NBCOT)
- Step 2: The initial complaint is evaluated by a designated member of the Council on Professional Policy & Standards (i.e., ethics person) and AOTA staff liaison based on written materials and has discretion to request respondent to provide written response to complaint.
Note: Under the existing ethics enforcement process, a standing Ethics Commission of approximately 8 members performs the initial evaluation and has power to request written materials.
- Step 3: Upon initial evaluation:
- With respect to member complaints and sua sponte complaint, the initial evaluation can result in one of two alternatives
(1) The complaint is dismissed.
(2) The complaint is sent to an Ethics Review Panel selected from a pool of qualified volunteers to evaluate the complaint and provide opportunity for submission of additional written materials and an oral hearing. (Pool of qualified persons selected from member volunteers using COOL to serve on Panel on case-by-case basis).
The Review Panel consists of a chair, an OT, an OTA, and a public member, supported by an AOTA staff liaison and the Association’s general counsel. The OT and OTA shall be selected from COOL and serve at least a 3-year term. To maintain constancy, provide a history, and promote stability, these members’ terms are staggered so that a new member from the COOL can be used.
De Jure complaints respondent is notified that a sanction is imposed based on the findings of other official body (state board, NBCOT); respondent is provided the opportunity to submit a written explanation to the Ethics Review Panel as to why the official body’s finding is erroneous or not grounds for sanction. Ethics Review Panel has discretion to permit oral hearing.
Note: Under the existing enforcement process, the Ethics Commission (EC) makes the determination of whether a complaint is dismissed or a sanction is imposed based on written materials and without a hearing. After receipt of decision of EC imposing a sanction, the respondent has the right to request a hearing before the Disciplinary Council, which is composed of two AOTA members selected from a pool of candidates selected by the Assembly Speaker and one public member. The Disciplinary Council may affirm, modify, or reverse the decision of the EC after a hearing.
- Step 4: Appeal to President with no right to a hearing. The President appoints a panel of 3 to do a paper review of the case and renders a decision. The decision is final.
The ethics process establishes a way to investigate and adjudicate alleged violations of the ethical standards. It promotes quality care and professional conduct. The Review Panel is the only body in the Association whose purpose is to protect the public. It is the responsibility of those involved in the ethical process to educate the public and members of the Association about these standards. To fulfill the educative role, the Review Panel writes and reviews Advisory Opinions to inform and educate the public and members of the Association about ethical issues. Ideas for advisory opinions can come from a variety of sources (e.g., the Council, Practice Sections, SIS groups) and can be written by ad hoc committees from multiple groups within the Association. The Review Panel functions as a screening body using expertise from COOL.