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Pro Bono Work

Post Series: Ethics Scenario Archive

Scenario

Dear Ethics Committee: I am an ABA student preparing for the BCBA exam. I have a question about pro bono limitations. I read in the code 2.13 about fees and financial arrangements. But in many references to this code, people will say that the relationship must be “remunerative.” Does this mean that pro bono work is discouraged? Many other professionals (i.e. some medical doctors I know) regularly provide a portion of their time to people on a pro bono basis. May a BCBA do this, provided that the relationship is spelled out clearly, and the other standards of the profession are withheld? That is, if we treat the client and others with the same high standards and in the same manner as paying customers, may we also do some pro bono work? I don’t see this addressed in high profile ABA contexts.

Response

  • I found that the bacb defines a behavior analyst as some one who does work for pay too, but it doesn’t specifically state not to do pro bono. I also found a presentation that states that the word remuneration needs to be taken out. I have, as most of us have, done presentations and talks, as a BCBA, for free. I don’t think the bacb wrote that part of the code to avoid pro bono, and it was just not thought about.

 

  • I wonder if they mean 2.12? In either case, I don’t see anywhere that suggests that one must avoid pro-bono work. My position is that so long as the pro bono work is clearly outlined and provided through a clearly defined contract the same as a remunerative relationship (with all of the same provisions and protections in place) a BCBA should be in good shape. I’ve done and continue to do pro bono work.

 

  • Define the relationship just as you would any other, and execute the BCBA part of the job just as you would with any other- the only difference being that the payment is $0.

 

  • I am not sure in which references to the code this was stated, but I have never interpreted any part of the code to mean pro bono would not be acceptable. I agree┬áthat how the relationship is defined is the key.

 

  • I had a couple of thoughts on this…The first is that, unless you’re an independent contractor, it implies that the pro bono work is beyond the workload and scope within your organization. Code 2.01 states that a behavior analyst should only accept clients that are commensurate with organizational policies. So, if you’ve signed a non-compete agreement, I can see a potential ethical issue, strictly based on that.My second thought is that the code doesn’t actually state “remuneration.” It says that the behavior analyst defines: the scope of their service, the roles of all parties and, specific compensation and billing arrangements. I would assume that if you wrote the details of the pro bono arrangement in that section, it would satisfy that guideline
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