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Angry On Phone

Human resources questions for dentists: Is there a 'rule' that dentists must contact previous employers before hiring?

Nov. 19, 2020
This dentist is baffled that some of his peers believe he is trying to steal their employees. He's simply placing an ad and receiving responses. Now he's told there's a "rule" about contacting current employers. Is the rule real?

The human resources landscape is constantly changing. Dentists have ongoing questions about how to handle staff issues. The HR experts at Bent Ericksen & Associates have seen it all, and they're here to help.

QUESTION: I’ve been told that there is a "rule" that some employers swear by that says someone must call a previous employer before hiring one of their employees. I had an employer call me today and accuse me of stealing one of her employee. She told me I should call first and if she cannot afford to lose the employee, I should look elsewhere for another employee. We are simply posting our job online and gathering candidates. They are seeking us out.

These employers in the area want us to call them before even contacting a candidate who is still employed by them. Basically, they want to know that we are interviewing one of their employees. I feel this is a conflict as we may not hire a candidate and they might be unnecessarily punished in their current office depending on the temperament of the current employer.

I want to make sure that I understand the law because these employers have gotten quite angry with me. This happens when I call for references. Am I required to first get permission from the applicant before I do this?

ANSWER: I am so sorry that your peer is not happy with potentially losing her employee. I agree, employees have free will and can apply for any job they see fit and leave their current employer at any time. If you did not purposefully solicit the peer's employees and the candidates applied for your open position, then that is exactly what I would share with your peer. 

I 100% agree with you that contacting your peers when one of their employees has simply applied with you to give them a heads up would likely result in a negative outcome for the person who is applying for the position. If you started doing this, it is likely you would see your candidate pool dwindle. 

The law does not require that you receive permission from an applicant to call on their references, if you are doing the calling. If you are going to use a third party to call the references then you would have to have signed consent.

As for the peer who cannot afford to lose her employee, that is not your problem. She should have thought of that when creating the culture and benefits for her employees. It is likely the employee is not looking to leave your peer for better pay or benefits, but more likely your peer is not providing the environment in which this employee wants to work. Your peer's anger toward you is likely just a sample of how she treats her employees. 

I understand this is a delicate matter. You do not want your peers to be upset thinking you are "stealing" their employees, but at the same time you have to staff your practice. If you are the employer of choice that just means you are doing things right. Hopefully over time this will pass and everyone will be able to move on.

For previous HR questions and answers, visiting DentistryIQ and search "human resources questions for dentists." 

Human Resources Questions for Dentists is provided by Rebecca Boartfield and Tim Twigg of Bent Ericksen & Associates. Tim Twigg is president and Rebecca Boartfield is a human resources compliance consultant with Bent Ericksen & Associates. For 30 years, the company has been a leading authority in human resource and personnel issues, helping dentists deal successfully with the ever-changing and complex labor laws. To receive a complimentary copy of the company’s quarterly newsletter or to learn more about its services, call (800) 679-2760 or visit bentericksen.com.