By Jeff Pizzino, APR, Public Relations –
The Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) of 1998 prohibits employers in most industries from requiring that an applicant or employee take a polygraph. This law also prohibits employers from taking any action against employees — such as discipline, termination, hiring, demotion, etc. — based on the results of a polygraph.
It should be noted that several states have additional laws placing limitation regarding how employers can use a polygraph on employees.
There are two primary exceptions to the EPPA.
First, employers can require job applicants or employees in certain occupations take and pass a polygraph. These exceptions primarily include law enforcement officers and security officers. In addition, employees of pharmaceutical companies that manufacture drugs can also be required to undergo a polygraph.
Second, employers can require an employee to take a polygraph as part of an ongoing investigation. But there has to be a specific theft or economic loss by the business, and the employer must prove the employee had access. In addition, the employer must have a reasonable suspicion that the employee was involved. In other words, if $1,000 is missing from the company’s safe, and only two employees have access to the safe, you can require that these two employees undergo a polygraph test. However, you cannot require any other employees who do not have access to the safe to take a test simply because the money is missing.
Who Can Use the Polygraph
The EPPA also has additional guidelines. It sets limits on who can perform the polygraph, what information employers can share, and what types of questions the test can cover. Employers are also required to inform the employee in writing of his or her rights before the polygraph is performed. Many times an employer will use the threat of a polygraph to encourage an employee to confess to theft. Having this looming threat oftentimes causes guilty employees to confess, making this often more effective than the actual polygraph itself.
Requiring a polygraph is a very serious, expensive measure governed by strict guidelines, and employers should not take it lightly. For employers exempt from the EPPA, usage of the polygraph varies greatly. The CIA requires employees take a polygraph two or more times per year, but most police departments do not require current employees to take a polygraph test.
EyeDetect™, a new technology that can distinguish between truthful and deceptive examinees by a detailed analysis of the behavior of the eyes, is a complementary solution to the polygraph to help effectively manage the process of deception detection.