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Pre-employment screening protects your practice and your clients

Don't put your veterinary practice at risk. Find out about job applicants before they turn into team members.
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Mar 01, 2011

The National Law Journal called it one of the "top 100 verdicts of 2007": A truck driver working for a hazardous waste company in Texas caused an accident that led to a man's death. A jury awarded $20.7 million to the deceased's estate, agreeing with the plaintiff that the employer was negligent in hiring the driver without adequately checking his drug use or driving record.

It happens in the veterinary profession, too. A veterinary practice hires a young woman who presents herself as a qualified and experienced veterinarian. She's worked three years for another practice and seems to be a good match. But after conducting a background check, the practice management is shocked to learn that she doesn't have a license to practice veterinary medicine. The woman completed two years of veterinary school, dropped out, and still got a job as a veterinarian in a corporate practice.

Hard to believe? It happens. Here's another true story: A prospective employee seemed to be matching up well to a veterinary practice's needs and goals, but the practice played it safe and ran a background check. The managers learned that the applicant had been convicted of embezzling from a former employer.

Both of these hiring scenarios could have proven unfortunate for these practices, but—luckily—in these two cases, a background check helped avert professional and financial disaster. Unfortunately, not all veterinary practices are so cautious.

According to a study conducted in the fall of 2009 by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 73 percent of HR professionals surveyed said they performed a criminal background check on all job candidates. Nineteen percent did background checks on selected candidates, and 7 percent performed no background checks. It's estimated that less than 10 percent of veterinary practices conduct any kind of background check at all.

As a practice owner, you have at least three precious things that need protecting: your clients, your patients, and your employees. How well are you shielding them? Your practice is your livelihood now and will provide the economic resources you need for retirement in the future. How well are you protecting your most important financial investment?

Employees of veterinary practices have relatively easy access to both money and controlled drugs. With so much on the line, it's hard to say why more owners don't perform background checks and pre-employement drug screening. With the average cost of a background check less than $100 and basic pre-employment drug screenings at around $25, you can afford to cut your risk of hiring a potential disaster-in-waiting.

So what do you need to know to get started? Let's begin by discussing your rights as a hiring employer and the rights of a potential employee under the law.