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Discipline Summary

Jennifer Sweeney (2021)

In October 2020, Jennifer Sweeney was referred to the Discipline Committee for allegations of professional misconduct. The College alleged that shortly after a client’s discharge, Ms. Sweeney engaged in a personal relationship with the client. 

The College had initially alleged, amongst other things, that Ms. Sweeney lived with the client; engaged in a sexual relationship with them; and, allowed herself to be called the client’s fiancée and/or wife. These alleged facts and corresponding allegations of professional misconduct, [namely, engaging in misconduct of a sexual nature involving someone, other than a client, in relation to whom the registrant is in a position of authority or trust, and engaging in conduct or performing an act relevant to the practice of the profession that, having regard to all the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded by registrants as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional], were ultimately withdrawn by the College. The College withdrew these allegations on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to pursue them and as such, there was no reasonable prospect of success.

At the hearing, Counsel for the College advised the Panel of the Discipline Committee hearing the matter that an agreement had been reached between the parties on the facts. Counsel for the College submitted the Agreed Statement of Facts as evidence. Ms. Sweeny admitted the allegations against her and confirmed she made voluntary, informed and unequivocal admissions of professional misconduct. 

A Summary of the Agreed Facts

From in or around May 2009 to September 2009, the client was a patient at a healthcare facility where Ms. Sweeney worked. Ms. Sweeney was assigned to the client as their occupational therapist in or around August 2009 following which she provided in-patient occupational therapy to them up until their discharge in September 2009. Shortly after the client’s discharge from this facility, Ms. Sweeney had a personal relationship with the client up until sometime in 2011. The personal relationship included Ms. Sweeney allowing the client to come to her home to use her computer during the day while she was at work; hosting a birthday party for the client; going on a trip to Florida with the client; attending hospital with the client following a health event they suffered; and, attending Christmas dinner with the client and their family.

Ms. Sweeney agreed that she engaged in professional misconduct in that she entered into a personal relationship with the client soon after her therapeutic relationship with the client ended. The College’s Standards for Professional Boundaries, in effect as of April 2009, provides that a registrant should not enter into a personal relationship with a client until two years have passed since the therapeutic relationship has ended, unless the client was especially vulnerable, in which case the registrant should never enter into a personal relationship with the client. 

Ms. Sweeney agreed that she breached these standards of practice of the profession by engaging in the conduct described above.

Decision

The Panel agreed that Ms. Sweeney’s conduct constituted professional misconduct and, in particular, found that Ms. Sweeney committed an act of professional misconduct as defined in subsection 51(1)(c) of the Health Professions Procedural Code, being Schedule 2 to the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, and in paragraphs 1 and 49 of section 1 of Ontario Regulation 95-07, made under the Occupational Therapy Act, 1991.

Counsel for the College advised the Panel that a Joint Submission on Penalty and Costs had been agreed upon. The Panel agreed that the penalty jointly proposed by Counsel for the College and Counsel for Ms. Sweeney was fair and reasonable.

The Panel of the Discipline Committee ordered a four month suspension of Ms. Sweeney’s certificate of registration; required Ms. Sweeney to appear before it to be reprimanded; requires Ms. Sweeney to successfully complete the PROBE Ethics & Boundaries Course within 3 months of its decision; and, requires Ms. Sweeney to successfully complete the College’s online learning module, Prescribed Regulatory Education Program: Jurisprudence, and to provide proof of completion of the module to the satisfaction of the Registrar.

The Panel also ordered Ms. Sweeney to pay the College costs in the amount of $5,000.00.