Lie Detector Tests

Lie detector tests and honesty tests should be reserved for instances when they are absolutely needed, such as for jobs where employees:

Can you give lie detector tests to job applicants? Under the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988, and the law in many states, most private employers are prohibited from requiring, requesting, causing, or suggesting that job applicants or employees take polygraph tests as a condition of employment.

Further, employers may not retaliate against job applicants or employees based on the results of a polygraph test or because of a refusal to submit to such a test.

Since the Employee Polygraph Protection Act became effective, polygraph testing of job applicants has been virtually eliminated by private employers. Behavioral or psychological testing has become more popular.

When can lie detector tests be used for job applicants? Lie detector/polygraph tests may be administered to:

Some states place additional restrictions on how lie detector tests can be administered and what can be asked. Click on any of the states shaded in yellow on the map below to learn about additional requirements for employers in those states. States colored blue do not have a law on the subject.

Government employees. The tests may also be randomly administered to federal, state, and local government job applicants and employees. Employees of national defense and security contractors of the federal government may be tested by the federal government but such tests cannot be administered by the contractor itself.

If it is determined, with the aid of legal counsel, that your company has the right and the need to test, certain notices must be provided and procedures followed to ensure that the testing complies with all relevant state and federal laws.

What if an applicant requests a lie detector test? Even if the law prevents you from suggesting a test, a job applicant may voluntarily ask to take the test. If you wish to grant the request, all relevant procedures must be followed to ensure that no applicant is subjected to an illegal polygraph examination. Consult a professional to get advice about this practice.

Must a polygraph testing notice be posted? Under federal law and under some state laws, a copy of the notice informing job applicants of the polygraph testing prohibitions, exemptions, and the rights provided to test takers under the law must be posted in the workplace.

States may also require employers to post their polygraph testing policy or to include a notice regarding polygraph testing in employment applications.

Notices should be posted in a conspicuous location in the workplace where job applicants will have access to the notice.

How do you document the test? If you administer lie detector tests to applicants and employees, the following documentation must be retained for three years from the date a polygraph exam is conducted or requested, according to the Employee Polygraph Protection Act: