RWA Member Code of Ethics


Updated July 2018

The RWA Member Code of Ethics (“Member Code”) serves as a code of professional conduct for RWA members. It is designed to cause RWA members to exhibit integrity, honesty, and other good professional practices, thereby enhancing the romance writing profession.

The principles of this Member Code are expressed in broad statements to guide ethical decision making. These statements provide a framework; they cannot and do not dictate conduct to cover particular situations.

  • RWA members support the preservation of authorial and intellectual property rights.
  • RWA members strive for excellence and integrity in the profession of romance writing.
  • RWA members strive to treat fellow members, RWA staff, and others with respect.
  • RWA members observe and adhere to all of RWA's Bylaws, policies and other rules.

An RWA member shall be subject to disciplinary action if the actions of such member are determined, to constitute one or more of the following:

  1. Intentionally making false or misleading oral or written statements about RWA where such statements are injurious to RWA, its reputation, or its purposes.
  2. Intentional copying of the written works of others (including but not limited to books, articles and/or manuscripts) with an intention to claim such work(s) as the member's own.
  3. Unauthorized use of another member's intellectual property, including but not limited to such other member's name, logo, trademarks or service marks, and/or copyrighted information.
  4. Intentional misrepresentation of RWA membership qualifications or credentials to RWA or to the public.
  5. Unauthorized use of RWA and/or RWA Chapter property, including but not limited to funds or money, RWA's name, logo, other trademarks or service marks, copyrighted information, and membership listings.
  6. To the extent not otherwise addressed above, repeatedly or intentionally engaging in conduct injurious to RWA or its purposes.
  7. To the extent not otherwise addressed above, repeatedly or intentionally engaging in conduct with the intent of harming a member's career, reputation, or wellbeing. Specifically excluded from this section are exchanges of business information, true statements, personal disagreements, and honest discussions of books, social media posts, or marketing materials.
  8. To the extent not addressed above, repeatedly or intentionally making a member's personal, private identifying information public with the intent of harming the other member's career, reputation, or wellbeing.
  9. Recommending author services on RWA forums, through RWA chapters or through any other RWA resource while failing to disclose commissions or finder's fees that have been offered specifically to the member by the provider of said services in exchange for finding future business.
  10. A violation of the Harassment Policy for All Conference Attendees addendum.
  11. Those specific actions reserved for Code of Ethics review under the Chapter Code of Conduct.


Member Code Violations and Procedure

A complaint filed under this section must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be in writing and signed by the complainant and delivered to RWA staff. The allegations should be described with sufficient specificity to explain the nature of the complaint. Supporting evidence should be submitted with the complaint.
  • Anonymous allegations will not be accepted.


Initial Review

When the RWA staff receives a complaint, whether said complaint is labeled as a Member Code violation or not, the Executive Director will conduct an initial assessment to determine if the matter potentially could be handled informally as a disagreement between members. The Executive Director will discuss the matter with the complainant. If the complainant agrees the matter should be handled as a disagreement (“Informal Process”), it will proceed according to office policy and the complainant will be kept apprised of the ongoing issues and communications in the matter.

The complainant may decide at any time during the Informal Process for the matter to proceed as a Member Code violation, at which time the matter will immediately proceed in accordance with



Upon receipt of a properly documented claim and after the initial review, the Executive Director must notify the Board of the allegation and forward the allegation and evidence within five (5) business days to the Ethics Committee for investigation.

The Executive Director must notify the accused of the allegation, including names of complainant(s), and copies of the supporting evidence within those same five (5) business days.

Individuals who refuse delivery of a notice of Member Code allegations, or who fail to respond to one, will be deemed to have waived their right to provide a written response.


Ethic Committee Procedure

The Ethics Committee will conduct a thorough investigation within a reasonable period of time, including a review of all information and documentation provided to the Committee. The Committee may ask for additional information if the Committee deems it necessary for clarification or to reach a decision. 

  • If a waiver occurs pursuant to Section,the Ethics Committee will make recommendations based on a review of the complaint. 

If the accused admits in writing to the allegation(s) set forth by the Complainant, then within five (5) business days, the Ethics Committee must forward to the Board the member Code of Ethics allegation(s), the supporting proof, and the accompanying admission of guilt, along with Ethics Committee's report recommending a penalty, for the Board's decision on an appropriate action.

If the accused denies the allegation(s) and after a thorough investigation the Committee finds for the accused, the Committee has five (5) business days to prepare and submit to the Board a report recommending exoneration. If the Committee finds against the accused, the Committee has five (5) business days to prepare and submit to the Board a report recommending a penalty.

The Board shall review the Committee's report in Executive Session and vote to either accept or reject the Committee’s recommendation(s). If the Board is not meeting in person, all voting Directors must have copies of all documentation and full access to discussion before voting. 

  • If the Board rejects the recommendations it must make a finding based on the information before it and set out, with specificity, why some or all of the Committee’s findings were not followed.

The Board will notify the parties of its determination within five (5) days.

  • Revocation of membership requires an affirmative vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the entire voting membership of the Board of Directors.

On the basis of newly discovered exonerating evidence, the accused shall have the right to appeal the Board’s decision to the Board within ten (10) days thereafter.


Allegations Against Sitting Board Members

Except alleged violations of fiduciary duties, which are an internal Board matter and will be handled pursuant to Section 2.3, Board members can be parties to a Member Code violation action. In that event:

  • The Executive Director and Ethics Committee Chair will determine if the current Ethics Committee is appropriate to handle the complaint or if additional members in good standing, including former Board members, should be added to the Committee pool for the complaint.
  • Discussions in Executive Session cannot form the basis of a Member Code complaint and may not be introduced in a Member Code complaint due to the confidential nature of Executive Session. They may form the basis of an action under Section 2.3.
  • Any Board member who is a party to a Member Code action will recuse themselves from any Board discussion on the matter. 
  • If the Board member who is subject to the Member Code action is the Board Liaison to the Ethic Committee, the Board member will step down from this position. 


Other Considerations

Directors, RWA Staff, the Executive Director and the Ethics Committee members involved in the investigation must hold all information, including the results of an investigation, in strictest confidence.

The Ethics Committee and RWA Office will keep records of all aspects of investigation, including copies of all correspondence.

Any Ethics Committee members, Directors, and RWA staff with a conflict of interest in an investigation cannot participate in the investigation or vote on the outcome, as applicable. Any Director who is either the complainant or the accused in an investigation is encouraged but not required to recuse herself or himself from the portion of any Board meeting that concerns such investigation; such Director shall not in any event participate in the discussion or vote on the question.

The Board liaison to the Ethics Committee and the President (as ex-officio member of all RWA committees) have no vote on the Ethics Committee. No Director shall participate in investigations.