N.Y. Nonprofits Committing a Felony by Employing Licensed Social Workers?

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February 10, 2012; Source: NY1 | The use of licensed social workers in a social service setting seems a reasonable practice, but under New York state law, nonprofits that employ such licensed workers without a state-approved waiver are now committing a felony, NY1 reports.

According to Patrick Markee from the Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit group that provides help for individuals on society’s outskirts, “The state law right now apparently prohibits nonprofit organizations like Coalition for the Homeless from hiring licensed social workers.”

The issue is that, under the state’s law, individuals without a license should not supervise licensed professionals; therefore corporations, including nonprofits, cannot employ these workers. The deadline to apply for a waiver has recently come and gone, so New York nonprofits that hire licensed social workers and did not apply for the waiver are now technically committing a felony.

Although it seems unlikely that social services groups or other organizations will be prosecuted under this law, it creates issues for those who would like to apply for various funding opportunities. Michael Stoller, executive director of the Human Services Council, says, “Even if you don’t get busted, if you’re violating that law, and the city wants to contract with you, they generally don’t contract with people who are violating laws.”

Though probably well intentioned, this law creates more hardship than expected, as thousands of nonprofit groups throughout New York State employ licensed social workers as critical part of their workforce. State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-16th District) says that changing the law makes more sense than cataloging hundreds of waiver applications, but as of yet, there is no pending legislation to modify the law. –Saras Chung