Ask the Expert Series: Six Answers to HR questions featuring Bent Ericksen & Associates

Jan. 11, 2010

Question 1: How can I find out if applicants misrepresent their qualifications on their resume or job application?
Answer: In today's economic climate, hiring and retaining the best employees is a priority. Unfortunately, there are people who do not provide factual information in their quest to land a job. Here are a few simple ways to protect yourself.
The application: Have all applicants complete a job application, even if you have their resume. Include in the application that you will check references, and that providing false information is grounds for immediate dismissal.
The interview: To check that applicants actually earned the degrees they say they did, ask specific, detailed questions about the courses they took as they relate to the job requirements. To ensure that the candidates have the skills and credentials reflected in the resume, ask questions relating to those skills. If the job requires technical knowledge, such as accounting or computer skills, ask technical questions or conduct a “skills assessment interview” (formerly called working interview.)
Checking references: Always check references to help clarify any discrepancies and to get a complete picture of a candidate's employment history. Most states have laws giving employers qualified immunity when providing information regarding the former employees and their job performance. Ask the applicant to sign a release allowing you to obtain information from previous employers. When performing a background check on applicants, be sure to comply with the stringent requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Question 2: When is it appropriate to initiate corrective action regarding an employee’s unacceptable attendance record?
Answer: As soon as possible. By beginning immediately, you do not “set a precedent,” which could effectively undermine your ability to terminate this employee or other employees for unacceptable attendance later.

Question 3: I am a California employer. Is overtime required for non-exempt employees after eight hours actually worked in each workday?
Answer: Yes, unless the employer has adopted California's Alternative Work Schedule. In all states except California, Nevada, and Alaska, the overtime “trigger” is 40 hours per week. Note: Whether you pay hourly, daily, or salary has no bearing on overtime requirements; only exempt/non-exempt status does.

Question 4: If a holiday falls on an unscheduled or non-work day, am I required to pay staff for the holiday?
Answer: Not necessarily. You are under no legal obligation to pay employees for holidays at all, and you also don’t need to provide time off when a holiday falls on a day the employee does not usually work. Review your policy manual or employee handbook to verify what has been promised. In the absence of a policy manual, verbal commitments or precedence will be the determining factors. If you have represented that you will provide six days of paid holidays a year, then staff is entitled to six days even if a holiday falls on a non-work day. If that is not your intent, your policy could read “in order to qualify for a paid holiday, the day must fall on a regularly scheduled workday.”

Question 5: I used to provide benefits only to my full-time staff. Now I find that part-time employees also want benefits. Benefits are costly, so what are other dentists doing in this regard?
Answer: Yes, benefits can be costly. “It used to be that companies treated part-time workers very differently from full-time workers,” Carol Sladek, a Hewitt consultant, said in a press release. “However, with today's talent shortage, part-time workers are becoming an essential part of the workforce, and as a result are reaping more benefits.”

Part-time staff has always been an integral part of the workforce in the dental profession, and most doctors agree that they are experiencing not only a “talent shortage,” but that in many parts of the country they have to hire and train unskilled staff.

In the areas of the country where it is hard to find staff, consider giving part-timers benefits that are proportionate to those given to full-time staff. Typically, staff members who regularly work less than 20 hours a week are excluded. To prevent misunderstandings, be sure your policy manual states how many hours of work a week constitutes full-time status so that it is clear who the part-timers are.

Question 6: Does a returning veteran have to apply for reemployment?
Answer: Under USERRA this depends on the duration of a person's military service (rather than on the type of service). For service of one to 30 days, a veteran need not apply for reemployment, he or she merely reports for work on the first regularly scheduled workday that falls eight hours after returning from military service. This rule also applies to absences for fitness-for-service examinations, regardless of the length of an absence. For service of 31 to 180 days, an application for reemployment must be submitted no later than 14 days after completion of military service. A reemployment application must be submitted within 90 days after release from service of 181 days or more for up to two years for persons who are hospitalized or convalescing because of a service-connected illness. If meeting these deadlines is impossible or unreasonable due to no fault of the employee, the employee must report or apply as soon as possible.

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For more than 25 years, Bent Ericksen & Associates has been a leading authority in human resources and personnel issues, helping dentists successfully deal with the ever-changing and complex labor laws. To receive a complimentary copy of the company’s quarterly newsletter or to learn more, contact them at (800) 679-2760 or