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What should I do about this ethical issue at work?
October 28, 2012 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Due to major recent changes in my field, I am now being listed as supervisor of most of the people I work with (including my actual supervisors), and this is due to my credentials. This is not information that is solely internal (since I am not actually everyone's supervisor) but actually is information sent to the third party funding sources, which I think raises a major ethical issue. Should I be allowing this to happen? What should I do about it?
posted by queenba to Work & Money (21 answers total)
 
Listed where? In a contract? In an proposed org chart? If it's a binding document, then no, it's not ethical (or legal) at all.

Would you want to be the actual supervisor? If not, it would make sense if you're identified as having an advisory, instead of supervisory, role. It's more accurate, and it might be just as valuable to these third-party sources.
posted by mochapickle at 12:11 PM on October 28, 2012


Ask for a raise.
posted by twblalock at 12:11 PM on October 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think we require more information about your field and position to determine if this is ethical or not. However, if your field says that someone with your credentials receives a certain title, I don't think there is anything wrong with using that title.
posted by Nightman at 12:12 PM on October 28, 2012


This sounds like you might have responsibility (in a reputation sense if not a legal sense) without any actual control, do not allow that to happen. I've seen projects go badly, badly, wrong and higher ups be fired in order to placate the customer (unofficially, of course) while the perpetrator carries on being gainfully employed, do not let that be you.
posted by purplemonkeydishwasher at 12:21 PM on October 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


To give more information, we work in in a health services related field and we are funded by insurance. Because of my certifications (e.g., like a licensed health professional nurse, psychologist, etc) I am the "supervisor" of all the uncertified people on our cases. So to the funding sources, I am the most knowledgeable person, I make sure our services are clinically sound, etc. Except I'm not really and there is an uncertified person actually making all these clinical decisions.
posted by queenba at 12:29 PM on October 28, 2012


There is no way I would allow official type people to believe I were responsible for any decisions related to serious health matters if I were not actually responsible for those decisions. How do you know you're not the one on the hook if things go pear shaped?
posted by Justinian at 12:32 PM on October 28, 2012 [14 favorites]


I am a licensed health care professional (social work), my opinion is that you are putting your professional credentials at risk. I would talk to your supervisor, with documentation in hand, to show them why this is unethical/illegal. I would take a third, impartial party into that meeting to witness the conversation, perhaps an attorney if that is possible.

It may get uncomfortable for you in that position, I would suggest you start a job search as well.
posted by HuronBob at 12:33 PM on October 28, 2012 [13 favorites]


I'm amending my original response. It's not remotely legal or ethical and not only are you putting your credentials at risk, the company is putting your patients' lives at risk by not complying with the insurers' requirements or understanding of your management structure.
posted by mochapickle at 12:48 PM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


So to the funding sources, I am the most knowledgeable person, I make sure our services are clinically sound, etc. Except I'm not really and there is an uncertified person actually making all these clinical decisions.

Right, you're the person set up to take a fall. The most to lose with the least control.
posted by rhizome at 1:06 PM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


This could result in financial liability or loss of licensure for you. I would get an attorney's opinion on this on Monday. Call your state professional organization and ask if they can recommend one.
posted by grouse at 1:11 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Call the board that licenses your profession. Most such organizations have an anonymous ethics or advice hotline. Ask them what you should do, both to protect your own license and to protect the patients who are under potentially unqualified care.

If they can't help you, consult an employment attorney who is experienced in dealing with cases involving healthcare professionals. Your licensing organization should be able to give you an attorney referral or recommendation.
posted by decathecting at 1:19 PM on October 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


What grouse said. You could be held liable for what others do, even though you have no real authority. Watch out.
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 1:33 PM on October 28, 2012


Because of my certifications (e.g., like a licensed health professional nurse, psychologist, etc) I am the "supervisor" of all the uncertified people on our cases.

I also came in to say what grouse said. The bell of potential liability should be ringing loudly in your head. If on paper you're supposed to be supervising these people, you may share liability for the outcomes of the cases they are managing. Additionally if there is a legal requirement for these cases to be overseen by a licensed professional and that is not what is happening, yes there is a serious ethical and likely legal compliance issue with your employer.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:09 PM on October 28, 2012


It would be possible for them to structure your workplace in such a way that you were responsible for overseeing / signing off on the decisions of everyone else without being their org chart manager or having any kind of hire/fire or HR responsibility for them. But it seems like if that was the case in your workplace, you'd already know that.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:00 PM on October 28, 2012


Yeah this is a horrible, horrible idea and you're being set up.

If anything bad happens they will just point to the chart and guess who loses their license / gets sued / etc.

At the very least if you're going to be the patsy ask for a raise. While this does in fact happen all the time, you're risking a lot by not saying anything and going along with it quietly, so don't kid yourself.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 3:58 PM on October 28, 2012


Nthing sentiments expressed above. If you are listed as supervisor in a clinical context, *you* are responsible for the clinical decisions being made. If you don't, in fact, have that authority, it is absolutely unethical (and potentially fraudulent) for you to be listed that way. You also potentially are incurring liability here. You should,obviously, get out of this situation ASAP.
posted by jasper411 at 4:23 PM on October 28, 2012


Short answer: if they screw up, then it's your license and your malpractice.

Screw ups happen, even when people are competent and well trained. It happens. We all wish it didn't but it does.

What should you do? Find another job. These are not ethical people. They are reporting this incorrectly because reporting it correctly would end their funding.

(Note: Years ago I worked for a counseling center with some clinicians with professional licenses and others practicing under their direction in specific circustances. This was correctly set up with proper supervision and malpractice insurance. This CAN be accomplished legally and ethically. Your employers are choosing to do it incorrectly.)
posted by 26.2 at 4:34 PM on October 28, 2012


Just remember how sketchy human services groups can be. There are some seriously evil people out there.

Figure out a bit more about what exactly is going on, and if they're really doing what you think they're doing, just quietly put in your two weeks notice.

DON'T expect people to listen when you tell them what they're doing is wrong. If you show them you are smart enough to know what's going on, they will start smearing you. Human services groups cheap out on their clinical staff and everything else, but they hire aggressive lawyer types to do their HR, so while everyone you work with may seem daft and harmless, they have a shark hiding in the main office somewhere.

There are also a lot of total bozos out there in human services who don't catch on when they're being made the fall guy or fall girl. They do really dumb dangerous stuff for a year or two then get promoted. The people who pulled this on you once were fall guys/girls themselves. Someone probably thought you were one of these people, but obviously, you're not. You're better.

Remember that even though your organization may be evil, there may be another one down the street that is NOT evil at all. They may even pay you more! This organization you're currently at may try to make you think there's nothing else out there, or that they have something on you that'll prevent others from hiring you. When you show up to this better organization down the street for an interview, they'll have hired MANY people from your organization who've also left because it's sketchy as hell and they'll be glad to hire someone who has ethics and who is not a fool.
posted by shushufindi at 5:41 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


It sounds like they are using your credentials to validate themselves.

Just for perspective, what if you were employed at NECC with the meningitis outbreak due to unsanitary conditions? If you were the 'supervisor' there, in name with no supervisor power, who do you think everyone would blame the deaths on?

Yep. You.

So not worth it.
posted by Vaike at 7:34 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


You should,obviously, get out of this situation ASAP.

Get out of the situation or tell that that if you are to be listed that way, you need the authority and salary to go with it.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:47 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, no, no, no, no.

Back the hell away from this shit.
posted by heyjude at 1:40 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


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