Do you suspect that one of your employees might be stealing from you? Have you considered giving that employee a lie detector test? Before you do so, you may want to educate yourself on the laws governing the use of lie detector tests in the workplace.
The Employee Polygraph Protection Act is a federal law that applies to all private sector employees in the United States. The law prohibits employers from requiring employees or job applicants to take lie detector tests. It also prohibits employers from requiring employees or job applicants to disclose the results of any lie detector test they have taken in the past.
The law does, however, provide an important exception. It allows employers to require an employee to take a lie detector test if the employee has caused the employer to suffer some kind of loss. So, if an employer discovers that an employee has stolen money, the employer can require this employee to take a lie detector test to determine whether he has stolen on other occasions. Or if an employee is involved in an automobile accident on the job, the employer can require the employee to take a lie detector test to determine whether the employee was under the influence of drugs during the accident.
Illinois has also passed a law governing lie detector tests called the Detection of Deception Examiners Act. This law applies to all Illinois employees, including those in the public sector, and prohibits an employer from asking questions about the following five topics in a lie detector test:
- Religious beliefs;
- Opinions regarding racial issues;
- Political opinions;
- Opinions about labor unions;
- Sexual activities or preferences.
If an employer does require an employee to submit to a polygraph test, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act requires that employer to provide a written explanation to the employee of the incident that is being investigated as well as the loss that the employer suffered. The employer must also explain the basis for its belief that the employee caused the employer to suffer the loss. The employer must also inform the employee of the date, time, and conditions of the test, and whether any recording devices will be used. Anyone performing a lie detector test must be qualified under state law and bonded or insured.
Employers may want to include in their employee handbooks information discussing the circumstances under which a lie detector test will be administered. Contact an experienced attorney for help doing this.