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More on the Need for Waivers for the Employment: A Few Clarifications To A Technical Issue
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More on the Need for Waivers for the Employment of Licensed Social Workers

A Few Clarifications to a Technical Issue

As Deadline Looms for Employers on June 16, 2011, NASW-NYC is Organizing an Informational Meeting

On February 18, NASW-NYC sent out an email notice to members alerting them to a development relating to the requirement for employers of licensed social workers in non-profit organizations to come into compliance with requirements that legally authorize employing LMSWs and LCSWs.

Why is this happening?

One of the first things anyone asks when they hear about this issue is “why is this happening?” Agencies have been employing social workers for over 100 years, so what’s up?

The issue is that New York State has a very strong law prohibiting corporations from employing licensed professionals unless there are explicit legal provisions for such employment. The reasoning is that only licensed professionals are permitted to engage in a restricted scope of practice, whether it be medicine, engineering, or social work. Licensed professionals are considered autonomous practitioners. Any supervision or oversight by unlicensed individuals that overlaps with the scope of practice that is restricted to license holders constitutes illegal practice of a profession. The corporate practices law restricts corporations from oversight and the authority that is presumed to be brought to bear with an employee who is licensed.

Before 2004, prior to social work licensing going into effect, there was no issue. Technically since that time, corporations, including non-profits, were not explicitly recognized as being able to employ licensed social workers. The State Education Department recently succeeded in getting legislation passed that now allows them to accept most government funded health and human service programs as authorized employers of licensed social workers and creates a mechanism through waivers for other types of programs.

Authorization for Employment of Licensed Social Workers

Authorization either comes from most federal, state or local governments that fund or regulate programs and call for the types of services provided by licensed social workers. Such programs typically have operating certificates or equivalent documentation that serve as authorization. Programs that have this type of governmental authorization for their services do not need to do anything.

While most programming is government funded, all other programs will need to obtain a waiver from the State Education Department in order to legally employ licensed social workers.

Programs, such as ones that are privately funded, will need to apply for a waiver from the State Education Department’s Office of the Professions. For example, there are privately-funded organizations that exist to treat people with specific forms of illness that will require waivers.

In another example, a very large agency with a hundred different programs primarily funded by the government will not need a waiver for most of their programs. Nevertheless, this agency has a privately funded program that is staffed by licensed social workers. A waiver will be needed.

The need for waivers does not apply to social workers in private practice or professional corporations. There is nothing that social workers in these settings need to do.

For full February 18th notice or legal requirements for authorizing employment click here.

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