Human Resources Questions for Dentists: Is this office required to interview male applicants?

Two dental practices submit questions: One has a front desk position available and they prefer to hire a woman. Are they required to interview the men who applied? The other wants to know if they're required to share information about employees with loan companies that call the office?

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The human resources landscape is constantly changing. Dentists have ongoing questions about how to handle staff issues. Take this month's questions, for instance. Could this dentist face legal action after a big argument with an employee? And, how should this office pay a hygienist who wants to earn extra money cleaning the office?

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QUESTION: We are a small practice that employs mostly women. We recently had a position open up for the front desk receptionist. Among the applications we received, three were from men. Given the demographic of our business, we prefer for a woman to fill that role. We plan on interviewing five applicants. Do we have to include any of the men?

ANSWER: Excluding men simply on the basis of their gender is unlawful discrimination, unless there is something unique about your business that would make the receptionist’s gender relevant to the job or the company’s success. If you have no other reason than you simply don’t prefer a male receptionist, then excluding any qualified male applicants could result in liability. This liability is not eliminated if you interview a male candidate that you have no intention of hiring.

The best thing you can do is evaluate each candidate on the basis of their skill, experience, and other qualifications that they may bring to your organization without regard to their gender or other characteristics that are not job-related. Look for someone who is going to be the best fit for your organization, which could be a male candidate if you maintain an open mind. Just like women don’t want to be judged on their gender alone, whether in a positive or negative way, neither do men.

QUESTION: We sometimes get calls from loan providers asking questions about our employees. Are we required to give them information? If so, what is the legal obligation?

ANSWER: You probably do not have an obligation, especially if you don’t have the employee’s signed permission. That being said, not providing information to a loan provider could be detrimental to the employee securing a loan, especially for a mortgage, so not saying anything is not advised. The employee should sign a release, which is usually part of the loan paperwork.

When answering the questions, you can verify current employment and compensation, however, you’re under no obligation to give an opinion about job security. If the relationship you have is at-will, then you probably have good reason to avoid creating an appearance of making any promises one way or the other in terms of employment with the employee.

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Visit DentistryIQ and search "Human Resources" for many more HR issues 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.


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