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Human Resources Questions for Dentists: Can employer reveal embezzlement to potential employers seeking recommendations?

Sept. 6, 2018
There are many employment issues that arise when operating a dental practice, and no dentists want to find out they're unintentionally doing anything illegal. These HR experts answer some tough issues.

This article originally appeared in the Principles of Practice Management e-newsletter. Subscribe to this informative twice monthly practice management ENL here.

The human resources landscape is constantly changing. Dentists have ongoing questions about how to handle staff issues. Take this month's questions, for instance. Can this dentist reveal he let an employee go because the person embezzled? And how long should dentists retain employee records after an employee departs? Visit with your questions.


QUESTION: I had an employee embezzle from me. I caught her, investigated it, discharged her for the theft, and filed criminal charges against her. The outcome of those charges is pending. In the meantime, I am receiving calls from other employers with whom she’s seeking employment, and they’re asking about her employment with me. Can I report the embezzlement issue that resulted in her discharge?

ANSWER: In general, anything that is job-related, factual, and can be supported with documentation can be stated to prospective employers regarding a former employee’s time with an employer. The bottom line here is to not overstate the truth or add anything that is inflammatory. For example, it’s one thing to say she was fired for embezzlement and criminal charges are pending, both of which are factual and can be supported with documentation. It’s another thing to say she was a liar, thief, and obviously not intelligent because she got caught, all of which are opinions and slam someone’s character, and they may or may not be true.

For good measure, you should seek authorization and a waiver from the former employee prior to providing any information. While not required, this provides an added level of security when sending off such information. This form should be signed by all employees upon their departure for any reason.

QUESTION: I have kept personnel records on my employees since I started my practice. Keeping these records has been quite cumbersome. How long are employees’ personnel files supposed to be kept? Can I move them off-site?

ANSWER: I assume you’re referring to regular employee personnel records for employment purposes. The length of time for keeping these records depends on the type of record, as each one may have very different requirements. In general, keep all records throughout the length of someone’s employment. If there is a claim against you, at a minimum, keep all records until the legal battle is closed. Once the employment relationship ends, if there are no additional legal problems, then keep everything for some number of years before purging them. Be consistent. It is generally recommended the length of time be six to seven years to cover all the bases.

Keep I-9 Forms separate and purge them according to the Department of Homeland Security’s requirements. I-9 forms must be kept throughout employment. Upon termination, purge them one year after termination or three years after hiring, whichever is longer.

For records related to OSHA and safety, check with your OSHA rep for compliance in this matter as duration may vary and can be as long as 30 years.

There is no reason these records cannot be maintained in an off-site facility, as long as the facility is secure and you can access it in a timely manner.

As for purging the files, be sure the records are fully and completely destroyed.

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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

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