My supervisor is refusing to sign my hours. What do I do?

Ideally, as you go through your supervised experience for California licensure, you’ll have your supervisor sign your Weekly Summary of Hours of Experience each week. That way, if something happens to the supervisor, you have strong documentation of the hours of experience you had gained up to that point. But what happens when a supervisor is refusing to sign your forms, even for hours that you gained weeks, months, or years ago?

When a supervisor refuses to sign weekly logs or the summary of experience form, it is the supervisee who suffers. The BBS will not count hours of experience without a signed Verification of Experience and a Supervisor Responsibility Statement. If either of these is missing, all of your hours under that supervisor will not be counted.

Common reasons for refusing to sign

While these instances are rare overall, it does sometimes happen that a supervisor refuses to sign off on a supervisee’s experience. In my experience, this happens most commonly when a supervisor has left an agency, and then supervisees from that agency ask the supervisor weeks or months later to complete paperwork. If the supervisor has moved, if the separation from the agency was less-than-friendly, or if the supervisor is having other challenges in their life, they may refuse to sign hours. They may not respond to emails or phone calls at all.

It’s worth noting here that there are often good, valid reasons why supervisors might refuse to sign hours. If the supervisor believes that the supervisee is counting or calculating their experience incorrectly, then the supervisor shouldn’t sign the hours — to do so would be unprofessional conduct on their part. It would arguably be participating in fraud. Of course, if that’s their reason for the supervisor refusing to sign, they should explain that and work with the supervisee to resolve the issue by signing for the hours they’re comfortable signing or that the supervisee can reasonably support through documentation.

Common resolutions for refusing to sign

The first steps to resolve such refusal should always be empathetic ones. If a supervisor hasn’t responded to messages, is there a chance they simply haven’t gotten the messages? Are there other ways you might reach them? If a supervisor is uncomfortable with your listed hours, do you have additional documentation to support those numbers?

If it becomes clear that the supervisor is dodging contacts or willfully refusing to sign, it’s time for a gentle confrontation. Regardless of what they think of you or the quality of your work, if they supervised it, they have some responsibility for it. That includes acknowledging the work that you did by signing off on it.

California law for supervisors refusing to sign hours

In fact, under California law, a supervisor is required to give at least 7 days notice if they are going to stop signing for further hours of experience. If they refuse to sign for hours gained in good faith before such notice was given, the supervisor may be found by the BBS to have committed unprofessional conduct. Their license may be disciplined. That may include losing the ability to supervise.

So, if a supervisor is refusing to sign your documentation of experience that they did in fact supervise, you should put in writing a request that they respond to you by a certain date, citing the law,* and noting that if they do not respond, a board complaint may result. Send this in a way that delivery is documented (for example, using package tracking), and then once delivery is confirmed, follow up with a phone call or email. Most supervisors at this point will provide signatures, even if reluctantly.

Of course, the threat of a complaint should only be a last resort, never a first step. Thankfully, most supervisors are eager to resolve any disputes about hours amicably, and to sign for supervised hours as part of their role in helping you achieve licensure. If anything, these kinds of disputes, while thankfully rare, offer a useful reminder: It’s so much easier (and less risky) to just get required signatures every week as you gather experience.

Those legal citations: For MFTs, it’s California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 16, Division 18, section 1833.1(c). For PCCs, it’s CCR Title 16, Division 18, Section 1821(d). For CSWs, it’s CCR Title 16, Division 18, Section 1870(a)(11). The relevant section is determined by the type of supervisee, not supervisor. Each of these regulations says the same thing: “A supervisor shall give at least one (1) week’s prior written notice to an associate 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.”

Ben Caldwell is the Education Director for SimplePractice Learning.