Under California law, supervisors of BBS associates must give at least one week notice if they are planning to stop signing a supervisee’s hours. Some supervisors and supervisees are not aware of this rule. Others misunderstand it. Here’s a rundown of what the one week notice rule means — and what it doesn’t.
Caveat up front: I’m not an attorney. None of this should be taken as legal advice. I’m speaking here from my policy knowledge and my 10+ years as a supervisor. If you need advice specific to your situation, you should consult an attorney.
The rule itself
The one week notice rule is in regulations for supervisors of California AMFTs, APCCs, and ASWs. (It would reasonably apply to supervisors of MFT trainees as well.) For each group, it reads essentially the same way. Here’s the MFT language: “A supervisor shall give at least one (1) week’s prior written notice to a supervisee of the supervisor’s intent not to sign for any further hours of experience for such person. A supervisor who has not provided such notice shall sign for hours of experience obtained in good faith where such supervisor actually provided the required supervision.” There’s no specific required format or language for what the notice has to look like, but it does need to be in writing.
What the one week notice rule means
For supervisors, it means you can’t just refuse to sign someone’s hours because you don’t like them, because the supervision relationship ended, because you left the workplace, or because of any unrelated dispute. If the supervisee gained hours under your supervision in good faith, you should sign off on the hours. Refusing to do so in the absence of giving the required one week notice can lead to disciplinary action against you.
For supervisees, the rule means that you can rest reasonably assured that your hours will be signed. If a supervisor refuses to sign off on hours you gained under them in good faith, and the supervisor never provided notice, you can file a complaint with the BBS.
What the one week notice doesn’t mean
As I mentioned at the top, the one week notice rule is commonly misunderstood. It does not obligate a supervisor to allow their supervisees a termination session with clients when the supervisee is being fired, for example. While such firings are rare, if a supervisee is being fired because of an egregious act, or one that endangered the safety of clients or others, it makes sense that the supervisor would want to immediately take over the care of the supervisee’s clients and end the supervisee’s employment. In such a situation, the supervisor does have an obligation to sign for hours gained under their supervision in good faith; they can’t just choose not to sign the supervisee’s prior hours because of the firing. But they could give the supervisee one week, and one week only, to submit their documentation for signatures.
The one week notice rule does not mean that the supervisor must sign all hours forms presented to them by the supervisee. If the supervisor cannot attest to the accuracy of the hours of experience listed on the forms, then the supervisor shouldn’t sign the forms at all, ever — to do so would be for the supervisor to commit fraud. If there is a dispute about the accuracy of the hours listed on the form, both parties should act in good faith to try to resolve the dispute and establish accurate numbers, which the supervisor can then sign.
Closely related is this: The one week notice rule does not give supervisees the ability to wait months or even years before submitting experience forms to their supervisors for signatures. You should have your forms signed on a regular basis, and I would suggest doing it monthly. If your experience forms are several months or even several years (I know of instances where this has happened) old before they are submitted to the supervisor, it can be very difficult for a supervisor to be able to validate the numbers presented. That’s especially true if the supervisor no longer works in the same place, and no longer can access records.
Supervisors in such situations can feel stuck. On one hand, they’re required to sign for hours gained in good faith. On the other hand, they’re required to not sign for hours where they can’t attest to the accuracy of those hours.
Discussions about the one week notice rule tend to happen when there is a dispute between the supervisor and the supervisee. Both parties have a role to play in avoiding situations where the supervisor might refuse to sign hours.
- Supervisees should present their hours forms to supervisors on a regular basis, soon after the hours listed on the form are completed.
- Supervisors should not tolerate their supervisees waiting several months or even years before submitting such paperwork. Some supervisors have standing policies to the effect that they will not sign the BBS monthly hours log sheets if those sheets are too old, using whatever timeframe the supervisor chooses. If this policy is presented in a supervision contract, it could easily be considered the one week notice required by the rule, and no further warning would need to be given.
- There should be clear written policies and procedures for the end of the supervision relationship, including a deadline for the supervisee to submit all documentation for signatures. Assuming that deadline is more than a week after the end of the relationship, the supervisor could refuse to sign forms presented after the deadline — but should sign forms presented before then, assuming the supervisor agrees that the information on those forms is accurate.
In my mind, the one week notice rule is a good rule. It serves to protect supervisees from losing credit for hours of experience that they actually did gain. But it’s not as protective as some people think it is, and it doesn’t give supervisees permission to procrastinate when it comes to getting your hours signed.