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Can you lose your license if your personal misconduct goes viral?

Tuesday, July 14, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Nicholas
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Can you lose your license if your personal misconduct goes viral?

It seems like almost every day lately there is someone caught on camera, acting out in a way that makes them an internet sensation - and not in a good way. Whether that person is refusing to wear a mask in a store, attending a protest, or flexing white privilege, entitlement, or prejudice by insulting a person of color, what happens on social media doesn't stay on social media - it becomes a part of that person's life - and reputation.

When someone's conduct goes viral, they might find herself out of a job --  employers do not want their reputations tarnished by the actions - and more seriously - acts of racism by one of their employees. Employers also look at social media profiles when considering job candidates - online images and statements demonstrating poor societal conduct, biases, and disregard for laws might lead to not getting hired in the first place.

But while you can lose your job for being a racist, can you also lose your professional license in Illinois for being one? Or, at the very least, have your license disciplined?

The Illinois Physical Therapy Practice Act and Rules for the Administration of the Act list consider a violation of the APTA Code of Ethics as unprofessional conduct, and the very first principle address discrimination.

Principle #1: Physical therapists shall respect the inherent dignity and rights of all individuals.  (Core Values: Compassion, Integrity) 

1A.  Physical therapists shall act in a respectful manner toward each person regardless of age, gender, race, nationality, religion, ethnicity, social or economic status, sexual orientation, health condition, or disability. 
1B.  Physical therapists shall recognize their personal biases and shall not discriminate against others in physical therapist practice, consultation, education, research, and administration. 

The Code of Ethics reaches more broadly with another principle focused on integrity, including not just in practice but applied to behaviors towards the public.

Principle #4: Physical therapists shall demonstrate integrity in their relationships with patients and clients, families, colleagues, students, research participants, other health care providers, employers, payers, and the public.

4D.  Physical therapists shall not harass anyone verbally, physically, emotionally, or sexually. 

The Standards of Ethical Conduct for the Physical Therapist Assistant are no different.  All point to the expectation that, as health care professionals, physical therapists and physical therapist assistants should respect all individuals without bias, whether it is in the clinic or in the grocery store.  

As far as the mask goes, willful disobedience of a law - any law - is a violation of the PT code of Ethics:

Principle #5: Physical therapists shall fulfill their legal and professional obligations.  (Core Values: Professional Duty, Accountability) 

5A.  Physical therapists shall comply with applicable local, state, and federal laws and regulations. 

So back to the original question: What if an employer, after terminating someone for behavior found on social media, reports their ethical misconduct to the IDFPR?  Could the IDFPR take disciplinary action? 

It certainly seems possible.



To review the Physical Therapist Code of Ethics, the Standards for Physical Therapist Assistant Conduct, and other resources from the APTA click here.

APTA President's Message on Racism and Systemic Inequality in America:

For information on APTA's Iniatives Relating to Diversity, Equity, and  Inclusion:

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