The most recent version of the BACB ethics code was published in 2016 and applies to BCBAs, BCBA-Ds, and BCaBAs. It sets the standards for professional conduct for everyone working in the field of behavior analysis.

The ethics code covers topics including professional conduct, responsibility to your clients, assessing behavior, your role as a supervisor, and your responsibilities to your colleagues, the BACB, and the profession of behavior analysis.

If you are concerned that you have a violation to report, the BACB provides resources to help you determine the need to report or not. You may need to self-report information about yourself, or you may need to report an alleged violation by someone else.

Your responsibility is to report alleged violations to the BACB. Then, the BACB will investigate the incident through proper code-enforcement procedures.

What Is the BACB Ethics Code?

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) ethics code was established to ensure consumer protection. It helps make sure that all behavior analysts deliver high-quality and ethical care to their clients and colleagues. It is meant to provide a foundation for protection of clients, BACB applicants, and already certified behavior analysts working in the field.

The most recent edition of the BACB ethics code took effect on January 1, 2016. The goal was to provide an updated single code of ethics for certified behavior analysts. The Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts outlines 10 sections of professional and ethical requirements for all board certified behavior analysts, including:

  • Board certified assistant behavior analysts (BCaBAs).
  • Board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs).
  • Board certified behavior analysts–doctoral (BCBA-D).

In addition to certified analysts, the ethics code also applies to individuals applying for certification and people providing continuing education for behavior analysts.

Of note, registered behavior technicians (RBT), who are also certified by the BACB, have a slightly different ethics code. The RBT Ethics Code can be found here. Because BCBAs supervise RBTs, all BCBAs must be familiar with this code of ethics as well.

BACB Ethics Code Requirements

The ethics code covers all topics of behavior relevant to the professional and ethical behavior of behavior analysts. The code requires you to abide by these standards and report any changes or violations to the BACB ethics department.

The 10 primary sections of the ethics code are as follows:

  • Responsible conduct of behavior analysts: Behavior analysts maintain the high standards of behavior of the profession.
  • Behavior analysts’ responsibility to clients: Behavior analysts have the responsibility to operate in the best interests of their clients.
  • Assessing behavior: Behavior-analytic assessment techniques are used for appropriate purposes given current research.
  • Behavior analysts and the behavior-change program: Behavior analysts are responsible for all aspects of the behavior-change programs they work on, from conceptualization to implementation to discontinuation.
  • Behavior analysts as supervisors: Behavior analysts must take full responsibility for all facets of functioning as a supervisor.
  • Behavior analysts’ ethical responsibility to the profession of behavior analysis: Behavior analysts have an obligation to the science of behavior and behavior analysis as a profession.
  • Behavior analysts’ ethical responsibility to colleagues: Behavior analysts must be aware of their ethical obligations in all situations when working with colleagues within the profession and from other professions.
  • Public statements: Behavior analysts must comply with the ethics code when making public statements related to their work or the profession of behavior analysis. 
  • Behavior analysts and research: All research must be designed, conducted, and reported in accordance with current standards of scientific competence and research.
  • Behavior analysts’ ethical responsibility to the BACB: Behavior analysts must adhere to the code of ethics and all other rules and standards set by the BACB.

The codes outlined in the above categories are meant to serve as a guide to help you navigate the profession of behavior analysis in the most responsible way possible. Each point above has multiple sub-points that you should familiarize yourself with as well. When you become a behavior analyst, you agree to adhere to all of these standards throughout your professional practice.

Reporting a Violation

Reports can be made to the BACB ethics department when you or someone you know have violated any of the ethics requirements. The two routes of reporting are self-reporting or reporting an alleged violation. The self-reporting method is used when you need to report information about yourself to the ethics department.

Instances that warrant self-reporting include:

  • Being the subject of an ethics requirement violation; a disciplinary investigation, action, or sanction; filing of charges; or conviction or plea of guilty or no contest by a governmental agency, health care organization, third-party payer, or educational institution.
  • Being named on any public health or safety-related fines or tickets.
  • Having a physical or mental health condition that could impair your ability to competently practice.

Note that change of personal information, such as name, address, or contact information, is not something you self-report. That information can be updated in your BACB account online. A considerations for self-reporting document is available to help you decide if you need to self-report to the BACB ethics department.

If you need to report an alleged ethics violation by someone else, there is a different process to follow. A considerations for reporting an alleged violations document is available to help you decide if an incident needs to be reported and what supporting documentation you need to gather.

Once you determine that an alleged violation needs to be reported, the following process occurs:

  • On day 1, you file the notice with the BACB and receive an automated confirmation.
  • By day 14, you receive a formal confirmation of receipt from the BACB Ethics Department.
  • If your notice is declined, you will be informed it was declined.
  • If your notice moves forward, the subject of the violation will receive a copy of the notice and supporting documents, and be given a chance to respond within 15 days.
  • By day 30, the notice of the violation will be accepted or rejected.
  • If rejected, the notifier and subject of the violation will be informed that the notice has been declined.
  • If accepted, code enforcement procedures are enacted. The BACB contacts all parties concerned at appropriate times for updates and actions.

Consequences for Breaking the Code

If, upon review of an alleged violation, the ethics board decides to move forward with disciplinary action, the code enforcement procedures are followed. These procedures ensure due process is followed with each report, giving the individual notification of the violation and a chance to respond and appeal. A neutral third party will review the case and determine the consequences.

When a notice of violation is accepted, the procedural actions for breaking the code of ethics are:

  • Revocation of eligibility or invalidation of certification. The BACB can bar any individual from taking any BACB exam or invalidate any BACB certification.
  • Procedural inactivation. The BACB can preliminarily inactivate an applicant or certificate holder’s status.
  • Summary suspension of eligibility or certification. An automatic suspension of certification, application eligibility, or other status can be applied to individuals who fail to respond to the request from the BACB or to comply with consequences in a disciplinary appeal.

Accepted notices of violation are routed through either an educational system, where the subject of the violation is given guidance and support to reduce the likelihood of future violations from occurring, or through disciplinary review. In a disciplinary review, neither the subject nor the notifier of the violation is allowed to be present. The review committee determines whether the submitted evidence sufficiently supports the alleged violation and, if it does, what the consequences should be.

Potential consequences an ethics committee may apply to a case include corrective actions or sanctions. Corrective actions provide the subject with steps to take in order to address the violation and prevent it from recurring in the future.

Examples of corrective actions include:

  • Professional development.
  • Advisory warning.
  • Verification of competency.
  • Paper or product submission.

Sanctions are formal consequences published on the BACB website and in the individual’s BACB record until the sanction requirements have been completed. Examples of sanctions include:

  • Revocation of the subject’s BACB certification.
  • Invalidated certification.
  • Certification suspension.
  • Eligibility suspension.
  • Restriction on the limits of the subject’s certification.

How Stringent Is the BACB About Following the Code?

The BACB is very strict about all BCBA professionals following the code of ethics. The ethics code is put in place for the protection of consumers and practitioners in the field of behavior analysis.

Certified behavior analysts are meant to be teaching appropriate behavior and serve as role models for the individuals and communities they work with. By systematically establishing and enforcing the code of ethics, the BACB promotes professional and ethical standards that benefit everyone affected by behavior analysis services.