Ethics Inquiry and Complaint Guidelines

Ethics Inquiry and Complaint Guidelines

Inquiries
Definition: An Inquiry is a question that an Academy member has about appropriate ethical behavior, but is not an actual complaint against an Academy member.

Procedure: An inquiry may be submitted to the Ethical Practices Committee (EPC) in writing via email or postal letter to the EPC, via address or email below, and must include the inquirer’s name and contact information. Inquiries cannot be addressed via phone call to the Academy office, as Academy staff is not qualified to answer questions regarding ethics. Academy staff will immediately forward inquiries to the EPC Chair for EPC discussion and resolution. The EPC will respond in writing to all Inquiries.

Timeline: Although the EPC attempts to address inquiries as soon as possible, responses may take up to 30-45 days in order to allow the EPC time to adequately review all relevant aspects of the inquiry.  
 
Complaints
Definition: A complaint is an allegation lodged against an Academy member for possible noncompliance with the Academy Code of Ethics. A complaint against an organization or employer is not permitted.  

Procedure: An Academy member or consumer of Academy member services/products may contact the EPC to file a complaint. All complaints must be made in letter format and must include documentation that corroborates and supports the allegations made, as well as a Complaint Form for Alleged Noncompliance with the Academy's Code of Ethics. If the complaint was also filed with another organization or legal entity, any related correspondence, including current status and/or final resolution must be included. Complainants will be asked to sign a Waiver of Confidentiality, and must agree in writing that a copy of the complaint form and all attachments may be provided to the individual against whom the complaint is filed. If the alleged noncompliance has a high probability of being legally actionable, the complainant may be referred to the appropriate agency. The EPC will postpone member notification and further deliberation until the legal process has been completed.  

  1. Suspected noncompliance with the Code of Ethics shall be reported using the Academy’s “Complaint Form for Alleged Noncompliance with The AAA Code of Ethics”, giving documentation sufficient to support the alleged noncompliance. The form must include the specific section of the Code of Ethics of the alleged violation. The form should be addressed to:

American Academy of Audiology
Chair, Ethical Practices Committee
11480 Commerce Park Dr. Suite 220
Reston, Virginia 20191

  1. Following receipt of a report of suspected noncompliance, the Ethical Practice Committee will convene to evaluate the merit of the alleged noncompliance as it relates to the Code of Ethics. The Committee will use established criteria to evaluate whether it can or should proceed including: (1) noncompliance with a specific Code of Ethics principle or rule; (2) no current or pending litigation; and, (3) the evidence provided supports the allegation.
    1. The Ethical Practices Committee shall meet to discuss the case, either in person or by electronic means, at its regularly scheduled quarterly meeting.
    2. The Committee will determine if, based on the allegation, a specific principle or rule of the Code of Ethics has potentially been violated. If not, the complaint will not be acted upon.
    3. If a complaint is already being acted upon or may potentially be acted upon through legal action or licensing board or other regulatory body review, the Ethical Practices Committee will decline further deliberation to avoid influencing those actions/ proceedings.
  2. For cases that proceed, at the discretion of the Chair, the Ethical Practices Committee will request a signed Waiver of Confidentiality from the complainant indicating that the complainant will allow the Ethical Practices Committee to disclose his/her name and complaint details should this become necessary during investigation of the allegation. The Chair may communicate with other individuals, agencies, and/or programs for additional information as may be required for Committee review at any time during the deliberation.
  3. If there is sufficient evidence that indicates noncompliance with the Code of Ethics has occurred, upon majority vote, the member will be forwarded a “Notification of Potential Ethics Concern” including.
    1. The specific Code of Ethics principle(s) and/or rule(s) that may conflict with the member’s behavior.
    2. The circumstances of the alleged noncompliance will be described, and all evidence intended to support the allegation provided.
    3. Supporting AAA documents that may serve to further educate the member about the ethical implications of his/her alleged actions will be included, as appropriate.
    4. A list of potential sanctions for ethical violations.
    5. The member’s right to present a defense to the allegations including the right to a hearing, in person or by teleconference, before the Ethical Practices Committee.
  4. The member will be asked to respond fully to the allegation and submit all supporting evidence within 30 calendar days. At this time the member should provide any additional relevant information. As this is the final opportunity for a member to provide new information, the member should carefully prepare all documentation.
  5. The Ethical Practices Committee will meet either in person or by electronic means:
    1. at its next regularly scheduled quarterly meeting after receiving a response from the member to the “Notification of Potential Ethics Concern” to review the response and all information pertaining to the alleged noncompliance, or
    2. at its next regularly scheduled quarterly meeting  after the deadline to respond to the “Notification of Potential Ethics Concern” if no response is received from the member to review the information received from the complainant.
  6. Potential Rulings.
    1. When the Ethical Practices Committee determines there is insufficient evidence of ethical noncompliance, the parties to the complaint will be notified that the case will be closed.
    2. When the evidence supports the allegation of Code noncompliance, the Code(s)/Rule(s) will be cited, and the sanction(s) will be specified.
  7. The Committee shall sanction members based on the severity of the noncompliance and history of ethical noncompliance. A simple majority of voting Ethical Practices Committee members is required to institute a sanction unless otherwise noted. Sanctions may include one or more of the following:
    1. Education
      1. Educative Letter. This sanction alone is appropriate when:
        1. The ethics noncompliance appears to have been inadvertent.
        2. The member’s response to Notification of Potential Ethics Concern indicates a credible, new awareness of the problem and the member resolves to refrain from future ethical noncompliance.
      2. Mandatory Continuing Education. This sanction is appropriate when the member is aware of the ethical practice(s) in question but is not following it appropriately.
        1. The Ethical Practices Committee will determine the type of education needed to reduce chances of recurrence of noncompliance and identify an end date for the member to complete the education.
        2. The member will be responsible for submitting documentation of continuing education within the period designated by the Ethical Practices Committee.
        3. All costs associated with compliance will be borne by the member.
        4. Failure to demonstrate achievement of the identified education may result in the Ethical Practices Committee revisiting the case to determine if further action is required.
    2. Revocation of Membership. Revocation of membership is the maximum consequence for noncompliance with the Code of Ethics. This sanction is appropriate when the member displayed a clear disregard for the ethical practice(s) in question.
      1. Revocation requires a two-thirds majority of the voting members of the Ethical Practices Committee.
      2. Individuals whose memberships are revoked are not entitled to a refund of dues or fees.
      3. One year following the date of membership revocation the individual may reapply for, but is not guaranteed, membership through normal channels, and must meet the membership qualifications in effect at the time of reapplication.
  8. All final findings, decisions, sanctions, and durations will be communicated to the member in writing. The Board liaison to the Ethical Practices Committee will report to the Board any new or concluded cases.
  9. The member may appeal the Final Finding and Decision of the Ethical Practices Committee to the Academy Board of Directors. The route of Appeal is by letter format through the Ethical Practices Committee to the Board of Directors of the Academy. Requests for Appeal must:
    1. be received by the Chair of the Ethical Practices Committee within 30 days of the Ethical Practices Committee notification of the Final Finding and Decision;
    2. state the basis for the appeal and the reason(s) that the Final Finding and Decision of the Ethical Practices Committee should be changed; and,
    3. not offer new documentation.
  10. The EPC chair will communicate with the Executive Director of the Academy to schedule the appeal at the earliest feasible Board of Director’s meeting.
    1. The Board of Directors will review the documents and written summaries and deliberate the case.
    2. The decision of the Board of Directors regarding the member's appeal shall be final.
  11. In order to educate the Academy membership, upon majority vote of the Ethical Practices Committee, the general circumstances and nature of cases and associated principles and rules violated may be used as a basis for education in Audiology Today and on the Ethics page of the AAA website. The member’s identity will not be made public (see Confidentiality and Records below).
  12. No Ethical Practices Committee member nor Academy staff shall give access to records, act or speak independently, or on behalf of the Ethical Practices Committee, without the expressed permission of the committee members then active. No member may impose the sanction of the Ethical Practices Committee or interpret the findings of the Ethical Practices Committee in any manner that may place members of the Ethical Practices Committee or Board of Directors, collectively or singly, at financial, professional, or personal risk.
  13. The Ethical Practices Committee Chair and Staff Liaison shall maintain electronic records that shall form the basis for future findings of the Committee.

CONFIDENTIALITY AND RECORDS

Confidentiality shall be maintained in all Ethical Practices Committee discussion, correspondence, communication, deliberation, and records pertaining to members reviewed by the Ethical Practices Committee.

The Academy will not disclose member compliance or noncompliance with the Academy’s Code of Ethics. All information concerning investigations or complaints against Academy members, historical and current, shall be confidential and may only be shared with the Ethical Practices Committee and other Academy members involved in the review of ethics complaints, the complainant and respondent and their legal representative, if any. Non-disclosure will extend to members who have never been alleged to have violated the Code of Ethics.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Executive Director may disclose such information when compelled by a valid subpoena, in response to a request from a state or local board or similar entity, when otherwise required by law, to protect the interests of the Association, or as otherwise provided in these Rules and Procedures.

Patient Identifiable Information. Under no circumstances shall either complainants or respondents submit any individually identifiable patient information to the Association without a valid patient authorization, except for documents that are in the public domain, such as news articles or court documents that are not subject to a protective order. Any individually identifiable patient information (including but not limited to name, social security number, address, telephone number, or email address) submitted without a patient authorization must be redacted from non-public documents that are submitted as part of an ethics proceeding, including court documents that are subject to a protective order. The Association will return or destroy any non-public documents that it receives as part of an investigation or complaint that contain patient identifiable information without an accompanying patient authorization.

The Academy is not liable for third party disclosure of individually identifiable patient information.