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  • Writer's pictureDr. Josh Levine, Ph.D., BCBA, LBA

Understanding the Legalities: Why Independent Contractor Status is Not Permissible for Registered Behavior Technicians

Welcome to our insightful discussion on a critical and often misunderstood aspect of the professional landscape for Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs). A prevalent question in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is whether RBTs can operate as independent contractors. The straightforward answer is no, and it's crucial to understand why this is the case from a legal standpoint.

The Role of a Registered Behavior Technician

Before delving into the legal aspects, let's briefly discuss what an RBT does. RBTs are paraprofessionals who work under the close, ongoing supervision of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). They implement behavior-analytic services, particularly in the treatment of individuals with developmental disorders such as autism. This role requires specific training, adherence to a strict code of ethics, and certification from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).

Legal Implications

  1. Supervision Requirements: One of the primary reasons RBTs cannot work as independent contractors is the mandatory supervision requirement. RBTs must be supervised by BCBAs or other qualified professionals. This level of oversight is incompatible with the independent contractor status, which typically implies a significant degree of autonomy and self-direction in work.

  2. Control Over Work: The IRS and other regulatory bodies often use the degree of control over work as a criterion to distinguish between employees and independent contractors. Given the supervised nature of RBT work, including adherence to specific treatment plans and protocols designed by BCBAs, RBTs are clearly operating as employees rather than autonomous contractors.

  3. Compliance with Ethical Guidelines: The BACB’s ethical guidelines stipulate that RBTs must work under the supervision of certified professionals. Operating independently could lead to violations of these guidelines, potentially resulting in certification issues or legal repercussions.

  4. Insurance and Liability Concerns: Independent contractors typically carry their own insurance. However, in the sensitive and high-responsibility field of ABA therapy, the liability typically falls on the employing agency or supervising BCBA. This arrangement is not generally compatible with an independent contractor model.

  5. Healthcare Regulations: In many regions, healthcare laws and regulations require specific employment arrangements for professionals like RBTs. These regulations often mandate that such professionals be employed in a structured environment where oversight and quality of care can be ensured.

  6. Billing and Reimbursement Issues: In the context of health insurance and Medicaid, billing for ABA services often requires that the individuals providing the service be employees rather than contractors to comply with reimbursement policies.


In conclusion, the nature of the work, supervision requirements, ethical guidelines, and legal frameworks surrounding the role of Registered Behavior Technicians make it clear why operating as an independent contractor is not legally permissible. This structure ensures that RBTs provide the highest quality of service under guided supervision, maintaining the integrity and efficacy of ABA therapy. For anyone pursuing or currently in the role of an RBT, it's crucial to understand and comply with these legal requirements to maintain ethical standards and professional integrity in this critical field.

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