Ethics for Macro Practice
Promoting Social Justice and
Cultural Diversity through Advocacy
Ethical issues in formal organizations (as specified in
the NASW Code of Ethics) include:
Relationships between workers and clients.
Relationships between administrators/supervisors and
Relationships among colleagues.
Ethical issues in conducting research.
Confidentiality (client records).
Informed Consent
Client self-determination.
Responsibility to intervene when colleagues are
unethical or incompetent.
Payment for services/conflicts of interest.
The NASW Code of Ethics identifies
important principles including
Relationships between workers and clients.
Relationships between administrators/supervisors and workers.
Relationships among colleagues.
Ethical issues in conducting research.
Confidentiality (client records).
Client self-determination.
Responsibility of individual social workers to advocate for
improvements in policies, services, and resources for clients.
Responsibilities of social workers to engage in and promote
culturally competent service delivery.
Responsibility to intervene when colleagues are unethical or
Payment for services/conflicts of interest.
Advocacy (helping clients get the resources they need).
There are a number of ethical issues can be especially
problematic in organization practice:
Reporting unethical conduct or harassment.
Sexual relationships with co-workers.
Accepting goods and services from clients.
Advocacy on behalf of clients when agency
practices are oppressive or otherwise
detrimental to clients.
Internal or external advocacy on social issues
when the worker’s position varies from the
Social workers may seek consultation on ethical
issues from:
1) Beneficiaries of Social Change Processes.
2) Peers.
3) Agency Supervisory Staff.
4) Board Members.
5) Mentors.
6) Professional Organizations.
Ethical issues faced by administrations that are not
covered by the code of ethics include:
Acceptance of funding from sources with who
represent different values or who have
different agendas from the organizations.
 Involvement in protest activities that are not
sanctioned by the organization or by society.
 Hiring and firing staff.
 Providing services to clients who may be
members of social stigmatized groups.
The decision to advocate is especially problematic for many social
workers. It may involve risks to the social worker or the intended
Lack of resources with which to advocate.
 Rigid or inadequate rules or policies limit one’s ability
to advocate.
 Losing one’s job, a promotion, or benefits.
 Social ostracism/lack of support from co-workers
 Harassment.
 Harassment of or harm to intended beneficiaries.
 Burn-out or demoralization of advocate.
 Limited results
Benefits of Advocacy include:
Achieving positive change.
 Personal feelings of empowerment or
 Achieving a sense of hopefulness
 Educating/empowering clients to
advocate for themselves.
 Reducing burnout.
Types of advocacy practice include:
Case advocacy
Helping individual clients obtain
Self-help advocacy
Providing training so that clients can
advocate for themselves
Group or Class Advocacy
Advocacy on behalf of or in
partnership with people who have a
common problem.
Contacting public officials to change
laws and policies
Participation in Political
Election to office, volunteer on
campaigns, voter registration
Protest (Type of Class
Demonstrations, civil disobedience,
and direct action
Do you think it is ethical for social
workers to be involved in:
Lobbying for Legislation
Political Campaigns
According to the NASW Code of
Social workers should promote conditions that
encourage respect for cultural and social
diversity within the United States and globally.
Social workers should promote policies and
practices that demonstrate respect for
difference, support the expansion of cultural
knowledge and resources, advocate for
programs and institutions that demonstrate
cultural competence, and promote policies that
safeguard the rights of and confirm equity and
social justice for all people.
Involvement in Social Action can
vary among social workers:
Most organizations that employ social workers
lobby government officials and agencies for
funding and for changes in laws and policies.
 Many social workers work on political
campaigns or donate money to candidates.
Some social workers run for office. However,
laws prohibit employees of public agencies
from campaigning while on the job and also
prohibit nonprofit organizations from donating
money to political campaigns or candidates.
(However, social workers may engage in these
activities off-the job).
Involvement in political groups and protests is
a fundamental right.
 Some social workers engage in protest as part
of their jobs if they are involved in an issue of
concern to their organization.
 Many social service organizations do not
permit workers to engage in protest on-the job.
Federal regulations limit the amount of money
most nonprofit organizations can spend in
lobbying government for changes in policies
and laws.
The achievement of social justice is why we
engage in social action.
Social justice can be defined as equal access
to resources such as jobs, education, services,
and voting rights.
 Many groups in society have difficulties
obtaining these resources, are denied their
rights, or have limited political power.
 The purpose of community organization
practice is to help people to gain access to
resources, voting rights, or political power.
Ethical Conduct in Social Work also requires that
we promote diversity in our agency
This means that we should do everything
we can to make sure we promote
diversity in terms of age, gender, social
class, disability status, race, and
ethnicity, and sexual orientation
We need to make sure we promote fair
practices in hiring, firing, promoting, and
retaining staff.
Federal and State regulations
also require this:
Affirmative Action
 Equal Pay Act
 Americans with Disabilities Act
 Civil Rights Act
 Age Discrimination Act
 Vietnam-Era Veterans Readjustment Act
 California Fair Employment Act
 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Guidelines Prohibiting Sexual Harassment
(Note: California law also prohibits discrimination based
on sexual orientation)
Affirmative Action :
Applies to organizations with Federal contracts
Provides guidelines that prohibits employment
practices that may result in discrimination.
Does not require organizations to use hiring quotas.
Does require that the employer recruit applicants from
a diverse group of employees.
Does require employers to hire a member of a
protected group (women or people of color) – but only
in situations in which two employees are equally
Requires some employers to file annual affirmative
action plans.
Americans with Disabilities Act :
Prohibits employment discrimination
against persons with disabilities.
 Requires employers to provide
reasonable accommodation in some
situations to disabled employees.
Sexual Harassment is:
Can be either quid pro quo harassment
(employee/student) asked for sex in return for
promotion, job, good grades, etc.
 Hostile Work Environment – behaviors that
create a work place that is so hostile that
interferes with a person’s ability to work or
Note: Harassment based on race, ethnicity, age,
disability, or religion are also strictly prohibited.
Some states including California:
Prohibit the use of affirmative action in
state hiring and university admissions,
 However, Federal laws on Affirmative
Action still cover nonprofit organizations
that receive funds from the Federal
Problems with enforcement of Federal and State
anti-discrimination laws
Harassment is considered a civil violation rather than a
criminal act unless it involves violence.
For the most part, harassment is addressed through
either the EEOC or through the courts. Individuals or
groups of people affected must bring complaints.
Case (court) law often determines how the act is
interpreted and changes constantly.
Federal government does monitor federal contractors
– but primarily makes sure that contractors have
workplace policies.
Private employers basically have policies primarily to
give them protection from lawsuits
In addition to staff hiring, services to clients
should be culturally competent.
Cultural competency is the ability to work effectively
with people who are culturally different from the social
worker. Culture includes values and beliefs and
lifestyle practices associated with ethnic and other
marginalized groups
A culturally competent social worker obtains
knowledge about the various cultural groups that he or
she works with, understands cultural identity, and can
communicate effectively across cultural differences.
An organization is culturally competent when its
policies and practices help client/consumers feel
comfortable when they request or obtain services for
the organization.
Cross and Friesen (2005) identify 5 characteristics of organizations
that engage in culturally competent practice:
Value diversity and embrace culture as a
Be capable of cultural self-assessment.
Be conscious of the dynamics, risks, and
potential conflicts inherent when different
cultures intersect.
Have institutionalized knowledge about
various cultures and cultural issues.
Have services that can be adapted to fit the
culture of the community served (p. 445).
A number of actions that should be taken by culturally
competent organizations:
Develop written cultural competency plans.
Establish boards with diverse members.
Provide applications and other materials in
different languages and Braille; pre-test
material to make sure it’s usable.
Provide translation services (including sign
Provide culturally acceptable treatments.
Provide cultural competency training.
Provide staff from a variety of cultural groups.
These organizations should also:
Hire staff members that are competent in a variety of languages in
response to client needs.
Provide applications and forms in appropriate languages.
Make sure service providers have specialized assessment and treatment
skills needed to treat diverse clients (in terms of ethnicity, sexual
orientation, ability, age, social class, and gender).
Ensure accessibility for people with physical and mental disabilities.
Examine the use of language and concepts in assessment tools and
intervention plans.
Engage in intervention on multiple systems levels (for example, with
individuals, families, groups, communities, and the socio-political
Display and disseminate agency materials (such as brochures, art work,
toys, and games) that portray members of a variety of ethnic groups.
These materials should not be racist, sexist, or heterosexist
Community Organization can be
used to:
Increase political power.
Change social policies that perpetuate social
inequities between the haves and have nots.
Conduct needs assessments to identify
problems that people have in obtaining access
to care.
Develop new service agencies or programs.
Advocate for change in existing services or
service delivery systems.
In community organization,
cultural competence requires:
Conducting research to gain knowledge about
other cultures.
Acknowledging one’s own biases and beliefs.
The ability to communicate cross-culturally
Participation in cultural events and the daily
life of a community.
Respect for cultural values and traditional
Recognition of barriers to community
participation that originate in institutional
Culturally Competent Community Practice also
includes the following activities:
Identify community strengths that can be used
to affect social change.
 Identify power holders and those people who
influence policy decisions.
 Work with constituents to identify strategies
and tactics that can be used to achieve power
and change institutional arrangements that are
not beneficial to communities of color.
Successful Organizing Includes:
An understanding of the culture of
beneficiaries and participants in the change
 An understanding of the power dynamics that
support existing policies and sources of power
that can be used to change policies.
 An intervention plan that includes goals,
objectives, strategies, and tactics that can be
used in the change process.
Remember: People Have the Power

Ethics for Macro Practice