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No One is Above the Law: The Things You Need to Know About HR with Dr. Ann Marie Gorczyca
Episode 3515th November 2021 • The Best Practices Show • ACT Dental
00:00:00 01:05:11

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No One is Above the Law: The Things You Need to Know About HR

Episode #351 with Dr. Ann Marie Gorczyca

HR is one of the most difficult things you will face as a business owner. And bad HR decisions will cause many headaches. But you're not alone! Today, Kirk Behrendt brings back Dr. Ann Marie Gorczyca to review important things to know about HR so you can run a successful business. She shares examples from her most successful book, Beyond the Morning Huddle, to help you avoid dangerous and costly mistakes. For the best advice on avoiding HR nightmares, listen to Episode 351 of The Best Practices Show!

Main Takeaways:

Understanding HR is as important as maintaining your dental license.

Learn the six functions of HR to avoid costly mistakes.

Be very inquisitive in the interview process and verify given information.

Know and be up to date with laws and their changes.

Enforce and update your team employment policy and procedure handbook.

Hire slow, fire fast.


“It is essential that every dentist know the HR laws. Fortune 500 companies have full-time attorneys to run their HR departments. And dentistry, dentists in their private practice, are held to the same law standards as Fortune 500 companies that have a full-time attorney running their HR. So, that's how important it is. (4:19—4:48)

“HR has six functions. The first function is recruitment of new team members. The second function is the on-boarding process. The third function is the day-to-day HR management. The fourth function is distribution of resources. The fifth function is the laws that you need to follow. And the last function is termination, whether it be by natural retirement, or layoff, or in the worst-case scenario, a dismissal situation. But in those six functions of HR, dentists need to know how to do things right to avoid costly mistakes.” (5:40—6:47)

“[HR] is an essential topic. It’s as important as maintaining your dental license.” (7:16—7:22)

“Let's start with area number one, the on-boarding process, hiring a new team member for the very first time. You are going to collect resumes. You're going to interview people. The thing that you need to look for is the recommendation from the previous employer. You're going to ask the all-important question, ‘Would you rehire this person?’ And you're going to wait to hear if you get an affirmative, enthusiastic yes. But if there's any hesitation, ‘Uh, well . . . Uh, she was good at billing insurance,’ or you don't get a yes, that is a red flag.” (8:19—9:12)

“Step number one, be very inquisitive. When you look at resumes, call for references. Verify employment. Verify the previous position. There are plenty of people, for example, who never were a dental office manager, but they will put on their resume that they are a dental office manager. Now, if you don't call that previous employer and say, ‘What function did she do in the office?’ They say, ‘She was a receptionist,’ well, there's a huge difference between a receptionist and a dental office manager.” (9:18—9:56)

“And also, you need to check on licenses. Someone can put on their resume that they are a registered dental assistant, and you can go on the California website to verify that they are a registered dental assistant. And maybe their license is not active. Or maybe they’ve lost their license. So, you need to verify.” (9:58—10:19)

“Let's say they work at such-and-such dental office. Go online, look up the dental office, call the main number. Because the number that they put on the resume could be their cousin, their mother, their best friend. It might not be the dental office.” (10:49—11:08)

“Also, you need to verify dates of employment. Because there may be holes in the resume where they’ll put down that they worked in one dental office for 10 years, but actually, maybe they just worked there for two or three years. So, you need to verify the dates of employment.” (11:10—11:29)

“When you interview the candidate, you need to be aware that questions unrelated to the job are illegal. There are many illegal questions you cannot ask. For example, ‘Are you married? Do you have kids? Where do you live?’ All of these personal questions are illegal, so be very careful to ask questions pertaining to the job and pertaining to past job experiences.” (11:30—12:01)

“You're trying to avoid problems. You're trying to eliminate the liars, the cheaters, the embezzlers. All the dysfunctional behaviors that you do not want to deal with in the future, you are trying to eliminate during the interview process.” (13:29—13:48)

“The person comes [for the working interview], they come dressed. You take a look at how professionally they act. And I have this little test I call the cotton roll test. I have my potential hire there, and I'm working on a patient. They're standing maybe behind me, and I just “accidentally” drop a cotton roll on the floor. And I just wait to see what's going to happen. What I want to see is, is that person going to take the initiative to pick up that cotton roll, go throw it in the garbage, take off their gloves, wash their hands, and put on a new pair of gloves. It’s a simple test, but it shows a little bit, is the person paying attention, are they taking initiative, how are they going to behave when they're in my office.” (15:46—16:40)

“When you finally do all the reference checks, verify the license, I like to have a unanimous decision by the team that we’re going to hire this team member. Because when you have a unanimous decision, everyone is committed to making that new team member a success. And no one can go back and say, ‘Well, I didn't really think she was good from the beginning.’ No, we asked everyone. Everyone was in agreement. And it is our job to make this new person a success in our office.” (17:37—18:14)

“When you have the new hire, the 90-day introductory period is critical. Because if, for some reason, this person does not work out, if they are dismissed within the 90-day introductory period, you don't pay any unemployment. So, if you're going to make a decision not to keep the person on, it’s best that you make that decision quickly and you make it within the first 90 days.” (18:21—18:48)

“Make the decision [to fire] fast. Don't suffer. They're not going to get better. Not everyone is trainable. And I see dentists in dental chat rooms, and they're saying, ‘When is she going to learn? When is she going to learn? It’s been six months.’ If you show someone something once, you show them it twice, you show them it three times, if they can't pick it up or make improvement by the third time, then I would say this person is not trainable. And that's what great HR managers know. They know that not everyone has unlimited potential.” (20:18—21:02)

“The final step of HR is the final goodbye. And it can be natural or unnatural. Natural would be, you retire. Unnatural would be someone, in a fit of lack of emotional intelligence, proclaiming, ‘I quit.’ What do you do when someone, for whatever reason, says, ‘I quit’? You calmly say, if you feel that that's a good move for that employee, ‘Okay. If that's your decision, could you please write on this piece of paper, ‘I quit’? Could you date it, and could you sign it? And we will get your final paycheck ready, and we will get your final vacation paycheck ready.’” (21:22—22:24)

“Now, let's say the person, in a fit of emotional outburst, storms out of the office. Says, ‘I quit,’ and storms out of the office. Well, then you can have a witness write on a piece of paper, so-and-so stormed out of the office, said, ‘I quit.’ And you can have the witness date it, sign it, and then you could register mail, the final paycheck, and the final vacation paycheck.” (22:26—22:57)

“Or, if the person’s just having a bad day — let's say they're a good employee, and for whatever reason, who knows what's going on at home, or whatever, you could say, ‘You know what? You're having a bad day today. Why don't you go home, think it over, and come in tomorrow morning and give me your final decision?’ Because you don't know what's going on in that person’s life. They might be having some family problems, or medical problems, or childcare problems. You just don't know what's going on.” (22:59—23:40)

“No one should be surprised if they are terminated. Because, number one, you need to have annual reviews. And if there are areas of improvement that need to be made, the person should know what the areas of improvement are.” (23:56—24:13)

“I actually have my team members sign a form, the final exit interview, ‘I have been given my final paycheck.’ Initial. ‘I have been given my final vacation paycheck.’ Initial. It’s very good to have an exit interview so that there's absolutely no misunderstanding, whatsoever.” (31:39—31:58)

“Just because someone says, ‘I quit,’ don't think that they won't file for unemployment. They will try to get unemployment. And every time you have an unemployment request within a one-year period, the more requests you have, the higher your fees go up for unemployment. So, it costs the dental office. You don't want unemployment claims.” (32:25—32:51)

“Working in an office without a team handbook is like living in a lawless land. You cannot enforce anything without a team handbook, that the employee has read, that they understand it, they verify that they’ve read it, and they accept it.” (33:18—33:37)

“Someone in the state of Michigan had a team handbook that was so old and hadn’t been updated in several years that it actually had written in the team handbook that at age 65, you would need to retire, that their age limit for employment was age 65. Now, in the year 2021, this is totally illegal. That is something illegal written in the team handbook. It might've been legal in the year 1970. But in today’s day and age, it is not legal.” (34:55—35:38)

“Attorneys have told me if you don't have a team handbook which is current and updated and signed in hard copy, it’s hard for them to defend you in court. Because that will come up, ‘You don't even have a team handbook.’ You have to have that.” (36:29—36:48)

“Why do dentists make these decisions that are poor HR decisions? Is it that we’re too nice? Is it that we've been in the ivory tower for too long? Or is it that we’re too focused on the teeth? And you need to realize that when you open your office for an employment opportunity, you are getting every facet of society applying for your job in the office. And it is your job on a very quick, say one-month, interview process to try to determine what type of candidate you are interviewing, and which one you're going to select.” (57:03—57:55)


0:00 Introduction.

2:36 Dr. Gorczyca’s background.

6:48 Why this is an important topic in dentistry.

8:06 Biggest mistakes dentists make with HR.

10:20 Verify given information.

13:03 Why it’s important to on-board correctly.

14:48 Legality of the working interview and the cotton roll test.

17:36 Have a unanimous decision for new hires.

18:14 Not everyone is trainable.  

21:07 Termination dos and don’ts.

23:41 Termination should not be a surprise.

26:27 Scenarios where dentists get in trouble.

33:05 The team employment policy and procedure handbook.

34:01 Why it’s important to update your handbook every year.

36:52 Other considerations.

37:55 Laws on lunch breaks.

41:12 Laws and tips on overtime.

43:51 Beware of the “overtime queen.”

46:16 Avoid the dangers of “happy hour.”

50:14 Do 360-degree reviews.

51:41 Changes to FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act).

52:47 Other resources for dentists.

56:51 A summary of HR.

1:00:58 Dr. Gorczyca’s books.

Reach Out to Dr. Gorczyca:

Dr. Gorczyca’s website:  


Dr. Gorczyca’s Facebook:  


Dr. Gorczyca’s Twitter:  


Dr. Gorczyca’s YouTube:  


Dr. Gorczyca’s social media: @gorczycaorthodontics 


Beyond the Morning HUDDLE by Dr. Ann Marie Gorczyca:

It’s Okay to Be the Boss by Bruce Tulgan:

Traction by Gino Wickman:

Arthur Curley, attorney at TDIC (The Dentists Insurance Company):

Dr. Ann Marie Gorczyca Bio:

Dr. Ann Marie Gorczyca has been a clinical orthodontist for over 25 years. She wanted to be an orthodontist since she was in the seventh grade when she had her own orthodontic treatment! After completion of her orthodontic residency program, she worked with world-renown orthodontist, Dr. T.M. Graber, in Evanston, Illinois. Since moving to California, she has taught at both UCSF and University of the Pacific Dental Schools and worked in a multispecialty group practice prior to opening her own orthodontic office in Antioch, California. 


In addition to her private practice, Dr. Gorczyca is an adjunct clinical professor at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry at the University of the Pacific. She has also taught at UCSF Dental School and Northwestern Dental School. 


Dr. Gorczyca is an avid reader and has a passionate interest in business management. She lectures on business management topics at the University of the Pacific Dental School. These topics include Marketing, Teamwork, Treatment Coordination, Customer Service, Management Systems, and Human Resource Management. She has published her first book, It All Starts with Marketing - 201 Marketing Tips for Growing a Dental Practice, which is now available on Amazon.


A graduate of Wellesley College, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Gorczyca completed her advanced orthodontic residency and received a Master of Science degree in oral biology from Northwestern University. She also has a master’s degree in Public Health. 

Professional affiliations:

•       American Board of Orthodontics

•       Edward H. Angle Society of Orthodontists

•       Advanced Education in Orthodontics (Roth Program)

•       American Association of Orthodontists

•       Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists

•       California Association of Orthodontists

•       World Federation of Orthodontists

•       American Dental Association

•       California Dental Association

•       Contra Costa Dental Society

•       Delta Implant Study Club

•       Seattle Study Club

•       National Board Testing Construction Committee for the American Dental Association

•       American Association of Dental Office Managers