Albert Erlang
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A Guide to Polygraph Testing Your Employees

A Guide to Polygraph Testing Your Employees

Most people watched the old detective shows, and a suspect was always taking a lie detector test. Although the machine has improved with technology, the principle remains the same. The modern version is computerized and software-based. Electrodes and sensors compile the information, and the actual definition of the word polygraph is many writings.

The examiner asks the subject a series of questions, and the involuntary responses of their body and physiological activities are recorded. The bodies sweat glands, and respiratory and cardiovascular systems are analyzed both simultaneously and individually to determine if the subject is telling the truth.

The software version requires no maintenance and is portable. This is because it uses the USB port of a laptop, and the software has been loaded into the computer. This includes the lie detector results template. This additionally enables another test called a Polyscore.

The Process

When the test is given to an employee, it is critical their permission is obtained prior to the test, or the legal ramifications are extremely serious. The full test requires roughly two hours to complete. The employee should be given enough time to become familiar with the room, and become comfortable and at ease. There is an exchange of information, and the specifics of the employee’s background are covered.

The equipment and the way the test progresses and works must be explained to the employee. Prior to the test starting any concerns of the employee must be addressed, they must be given all questions and their order within the polygraph, and these questions must be reviewed. The electrodes and sensors must be explained, as well as how the equipment functions. The employee should become familiar with the personality, mannerisms and voice of the examiner.

The process is rehearsed to make certain the employee does not have any additional questions, and fully understands the process. The individual should have no doubts as to what to expect when the actual test is given. This is a crucial step, and must not be overlooked. The polygraph test consent form must be signed to show the employee has given their legal consent for the test.

The Testing Phase

The electrodes and sensors are attached to the employee, and then the testing begins. This starts with three, five-minute identical and consecutive tests. There are three questions with relevance asked of the employee, and all others are irrelevant.

The purpose is to compare the answers with the questions asked by the examiner during the interview process. The analysis of the examiner is completed by the after the conclusion of the polygraph including their opinion.

The Examiner

The examiner is required to possess experience and training. This is often provided by the American Polygraph Association. Some states require examiners to be licensed and registered. When the examiner has received the proper training, and has experience, the polygraph test is 95 percent accurate.

Some individuals will used specific techniques to distort the tests results, and this can cause the result to be inconclusive. An examiner with experience understands these techniques, and can generally prevent them from disrupting the final analysis.

The Legal Ramifications of Giving an Employee a Polygraph Test

A lot of companies give their employees polygraph tests far too quickly. Extreme caution must be used, the legal ramifications considered, and any alternatives discussed prior to this decision being made. The Employee Polygraph Protection Act, or the EPPA passed in 1998. This is a federal law in direct relation to commercial and private businesses.

The only businesses exempt from this law are those with a United States government contract, and specific armored car and investigative services. If the business does not strictly adhere to and follow the EPPA procedures, an employee can file a lawsuit against the business if they feel their legal rights have been compromised.

Prior to any private company administering a polygraph test to an employee, they must understand the law and all the possible ramifications if the protocol is not precisely followed.

There are procedures that are required to be followed and fully documented before a polygraph can be legally given to an employee. The employer is required to investigate, and pertinent information must be acquired. If theft is suspected of the employee, the employer must investigate all possible suspects prior to the polygraph.

If there are twenty suspects, this must be narrowed down to those most likely to have committed the crime. Only then can the employer legally ask these employees to agree to a polygraph test. If any of these employees refuse, it is illegal to fire, reprimand, discipline, or assume they are guilty.

These employees must legally be given two days to decide if they will take the polygraph. They have the right to use this time to speak with a lawyer or a representative from their union. Very few lawyers will advise an employee to agree to this test.

If the employee refuses to take the test, there are documents they must sign regarding the specifics of the polygraph, and the reasons they were asked to take the test. They must also sign a waiver stating their actions are of their own free will.

The Potential Risks of a Polygraph

Unfortunately, by the time an employer contacts an attorney, or an investigative service, they have already crossed or compromised a legal line. If an employer used even the slightest threat to force an employee to submit to a polygraph, they are already subject to be sued by the employee.

Therefore, it is critical for human resource and executive management teams to be fully informed regarding the legalities of communications, implications and investigations related to their employees.

The best possible solution is for the employer to consult with an attorney or professional service before pursuing a polygraph test. Investigators and attorneys are highly experienced regarding the procedures and processes required by the law.

The penalties for not strictly adhering to this law are exorbitant. When an employer requests a polygraph test of an employee without exactly following the law, they can receive fines of $10,000 a day. Until the issue is considered fully resolved, this fine will continue every single day.

The situation must be just right before a polygraph test should even be considered. Every employer must consider the risks presented by a potential lawsuit, and consult an attorney regarding polygraph testing, investigations, employee screening, all related legalities and risk assessment before proceeding.

An attorney can suggest an alternative method capable of gathering information regarding the employee. This can include data collection such as a background check. A company can additionally reduce the risk of employee exploitation by identifying and eliminating any weaknesses in security.

This story originally appeared on the LegalNotes blog | photo.credit