Q&A: Why Does the College Publish Discipline Decisions?

As the regulator of social workers and social service workers in Ontario, the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers publishes Discipline Committee decisions to inform the public about social workers or social service workers who have engaged in professional misconduct or are incompetent.[1]

By publishing decisions, the College:

  • Illustrates for members and the public what does — and does not — constitute professional misconduct.
  • Provides members with direction about the College’s Standards of Practice and what is expected of members should they find themselves in similar circumstances.
  • Provides members and the public with an understanding of the College’s discipline process as well as emerging trends in the two professions and issues relevant to the two professions.

The publication of discipline decisions made by the Discipline Committee is not unique to the College but rather is the rule at Ontario regulatory bodies.

Specific and general deterrence

The publication of Discipline Committee decisions protects the public in that it serves as a form of specific and general deterrence. It serves as a form of specific deterrence in that it is expected that it will deter the particular member before the Discipline Committee from, in the future, engaging in acts of professional misconduct or acts that indicate the member is incompetent[2]. From a general deterrence standpoint, the publication of decisions signals to the members of the College what constitutes professional misconduct or incompetence — and the penalties they will face if they commit similar acts of professional misconduct or incompetence — thereby deterring other College members from engaging in such conduct.

The open court principle

Publishing Discipline Committee decisions is consistent with the general principle of openness and transparency in legal proceedings, including the disciplinary proceedings of regulatory bodies – a concept often referred to as the “open court” principle. At the root of the open court principle is the idea that in order to maintain confidence in legal proceedings, including the disciplinary proceedings of regulatory bodies, there should be a way for the public to have a window into the decisions of decision-makers. In addition, publishing decisions serves as a way of educating the public and members about issues that are relevant to the two professions.

Treatment of personal information

While published Discipline Committee decisions will generally include the name of the particular College member against whom there has been a finding of professional misconduct or incompetence, information that could reveal the identity of any witnesses[3] or clients — or information that is subject to a publication ban — is removed as necessary or is modified so that the witness or client cannot be identified.

For more information about the College’s complaints and discipline processes, please visit the Complaints and Discipline section of our website.


[1] A member is incompetent if they have displayed in their professional responsibilities a lack of knowledge, skill or judgment or disregard for the welfare of a person(s) of a nature or extent that demonstrates that they are unfit to continue to carry out their professional responsibilities.
[2] See footnote 1.
[3] It should be noted that the identity of an expert witness and their qualifications are typically included in published Discipline Committee decisions.