The use of lie detector tests in employment settings is mostly prohibited by federal law. The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 provides that persons have a right to employment opportunities without having to take a test. It prohibits the use of polygraphs not only for applicant screening but also for disciplining or discharging employees. The law only applies to private employers, with certain exceptions, so a person seeking employment with or working for a governmental entity could be required to take a test. Most governmental employers, however, do not require polygraphs.
In addition to prohibiting tests, the following actions by employers are prohibited by the Act:
- inquiring about the results of tests;
- firing or disciplining an employee because of the results of a test;
- discriminating against an employee because of the results of a test; and
- firing, disciplining, or discriminating against an applicant or employee for participating in a complaint proceeding pursuant to the Act.
There are exceptions to the prohibition against polygraphs for employees in the security services sector, such armored car and security guard companies. The Act also exempts employees of pharmaceutical makers and pharmacies. Another exception is when an employer is conducting an investigation into possible theft or embezzlement that caused an economic loss to the employer.
In situations where polygraphs are allowed, the employer is required to engage the services of a licensed examiner, who must apply the test according to strict standards. Disclosure of test results by the employer is also strictly limited. Persons who are unlawfully subjected to a polygraph test are entitled by the Act to file a lawsuit and/or a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor.
At Tipp & Buley, we have over 55 years of collective experience in employment-related legal matters. If you’ve been subjected to an unlawful employment practice such as an improper polygraph test, please call us. We’ll put our experience to work for you. Call 406-389-4215 or visit us online to set up a one-on-one consultation.