Do you own a business? Have you considered implementing a polygraph policy for your candidates and employees? A polygraph, also known as a “lie detector test,” has benefits and drawbacks for your organization.

This post unpacks both sides of the argument for using polygraphs in the workplace. We’ll take an unbiased look at the polygraph and what it offers your company.


What Is the Difference Between Candidate Screening & Employee Testing?

The polygraph has a dual application in the workplace. Employers can use it in pre-employment screening and specific employee testing, depending on if their policy complies with “The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988” (EPPA).

Candidate screening involves testing prospective employees you want to hire for your organization. In today’s employment market, millions of people are looking for work, and you might receive dozens or hundreds of applications for an advertised post.

Candidate polygraph screening gives you a tool to sort the wheat from the chaff, allowing you to hire the best of the best. A pre-employment polygraph screening prevents you from hiring people that could damage your company, giving insight into their honesty, ethics, and character before they sign their employment contract.

Employee polygraph testing is ideal for uncovering instances of fraud, theft, sexual harassment, and drug use in your company. You can implement these tests to assist you with rooting out the undesirable elements in your company, ensuring you make the workplace a safe and honest place for your staff and your company.


When Is It Legal to Implement a Polygraph Policy in the Workplace?

It’s important to note that not all employers can use pre-employment polygraphs in their hiring process. There are also limitations involved in employee screening. The EPA is legislation surrounding how employers can use polygraphs in the workplace.

For instance, the EPPA outlaws using lie detector tests when screening candidates in the private sector. However, there are loopholes to this legislation. For example, the EPPA allows for the use of pre-employment polygraphs in the following industries.

  • Security.
  • High-value asset transport and storage.
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution.

So, why are these industries, except for the EPPA? Well, companies involved in these sectors need more information on the people they hire. For instance, if you own a protection service for high-net-worth individuals or politicians.

A hitman could infiltrate your organization and gather data on protection policies and routes. They can use this data to plan an assassination of one of your clients, which could ruin your company’s reputation.

By implementing a pre-employment polygraph, you can determine if the candidate has a criminal history or ties to organized crime. You can use this information to ensure you’re only hiring honest, ethical people. The same applies to employee screening. The EPPA permits specific polygraph testing of employees if they experience a problem at your company. We’ll unpack these issues in detail later in this post.

It’s also important to note that the EPP doesn’t apply to public-sector companies and organizations, such as those involved in law enforcement, government work, and the justice department. Organizations like the FBI, CIA, DOD, and the NSA can implement pre-employment and random or specific polygraph policies without repercussions.

The reason for this is similar to the issues mentioned above with private-sector companies. The last thing the NSA wants to do is hire the next Edward Snowden, or they might want to catch a potential William Binney before they have a chance to divulge state secrets.


How Do Employers Institute a Workplace Polygraph Policy?

To implement a polygraph policy in the workplace, you’ll need to ensure it meets the requirements of the EPPA. If you violate the law, the US Labor Department will review your polygraph policy and the exams on a case-by-case basis.

If they find you violating the Act, your organization faces massive financial penalties that might bankrupt your company. So, it’s vital that all employers understand the law when creating a workplace polygraph policy.

To ensure you’re in compliance, you’ll need to hire an attorney familiar with labor law and the EPPA. They’ll work with an independent polygraph company to build your policy and ensure it doesn’t violate the EPPA.

There are several procedures employers must follow when designing a polygraph policy. For instance, they must give the examinee sufficient notice of their intention to test them and follow all the paperwork requirements to the T. They can’t use a failed result to push an employee out of the organization.

Doing any of the above violates the EPPA and has the potential for huge legal liability. The EPPA ensures the rights of the employees, and it’s more in favor of the employee than the employer. Therefore, you must ensure you’re on the right side of the law when structuring and executing your polygraph policy.


What are the Benefits of Implementing a Polygraph Policy in the Workplace?

When planned and executed correctly, a workplace polygraph policy offers an organization plenty of benefits in hiring and management processes. Here are a few examples of how a polygraph policy can benefit your company.


Prevent the Hiring of Criminals and Bad Actors

As mentioned, using a polygraph policy for candidate screening can prevent the hiring of undesirable individuals in your organization. If you run a pharmaceutical distribution company and you inadvertently hire a drug addict or organized crime member, it could have disastrous results. What if they used the inside information they learned on the job to plan a robbery or steal your inventory?

A pre-screening polygraph keeps these elements out of your company, reducing risk. A specific or random polygraph policy involves screening your employees on the job. It prevents them from acting irresponsibly because they know if they do anything to harm the company, you’ll polygraph them and uncover their ill will or actions against your organization.


Resolving Severe Issues

Implementing a workplace policy helps you uncover the cause or source of severe threats against your company and staff. While the EPPA prevents the use of specific polygraphs in the workplace, it does allow the employer to implement a polygraph policy if they experience any of the following at their company.

Theft – If the employer experiences a severe economic loss that might jeopardize the company’s financial future. For instance, if an employee steals $4,000 worth of inventory. You can’t use it to find out who’s stealing the office supplies.

Fraud – If the employer experiences fraud that might jeopardize the company’s finances, reputation, or client positions.

Drug Addiction – If the employer suspects employees to be using or selling drugs on the premises.

Sexual Harassment – If one employee accuses their colleague of sexual harassment, the employer can use the polygraph to determine which side is telling the truth.


Improving the Workplace Experience for Employees

Implementing a workplace polygraph policy has the benefit of improving the employee experience. Employees want to know they operate in a safe space and can trust their teammates. For instance, if you run a gold coin retail operation, your polygraph policy of testing the team if there’s an inventory theft makes it less likely anyone will give into the temptation to steal inventory.

As a result, you create an environment of trust in your team. Everyone in the store knows they’ll be tested if anything goes missing, and they can work without the fear of the entire team being fired if there’s theft on the premises.


Protection of Brand & Company Integrity

Issues like customer fraud and sexual harassment can negatively impact a company’s brand and market reputation. For instance, if an employee steals your customer’s credit card data and sells it on the dark web, it will cause your market to lose trust in your brand when the truth comes out. As a result, you lose market share, and you might even experience a total failure of your business.

If employees know you have a polygraph policy in place, they won’t be as quick to make rash decisions or plan these kinds of capers. Your company keeps walking the straight and narrow, and you continue building your brand and reputation in the market.


What are the Drawbacks of Implementing a Polygraph Policy in the Workplace?

Suppose you don’t adhere to the EPPA legislation or have the right team drawing up and executing your polygraph policy. In that case, you could land in hot water with the government. Or you could end up ruining your company’s reputation due to damaging the employee experience. Here are a few examples of what could go wrong with a workplace polygraph policy.


EPPA Violations

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act is a serious piece of legislation enforced by the US Labor Department. It’s not a white elephant, and employers should view it cautiously when implementing a polygraph policy in the workplace.

Violating the conditions of the Act means your employees can hire legal representation and use their lawyer to file a complaint against you. The Labor Department is obligated to investigate all complaints. If they find you violating the Act, they’ll penalize your company for each case.


Damage to the Employee Experience

Employees are most productive when they have a supportive workplace environment. If you have a polygraph policy in place and abuse it, it places your employees on edge. They begin to wonder about their job security and future with the company. If they assume you’ll abuse the polygraph policy, it creates an environment of fear in the workplace.

Employees don’t like to work under threat of being polygraphed for anything they do wrong. As a result, you might lose top people to your competitors or find your employees keener to run to the Labor department and file a complaint if you use a polygraph policy against them. This behavior creates discord and uncertainty in the workplace, affecting employee productivity.


Damage to Hiring Reputation

Suppose word gets out that you use a polygraph policy on your candidates and employees. In that case, it might damage your reputation as a viable employer in your industry. This is especially the case if there are any cases of employees filing a lawsuit against you with the Labor Department for unfair use of polygraphs in your employee screening and management processes.

As a result, you might find it hard to secure top talent for your organization. If the prospective candidate or employee hears about you using polygraphs unfairly, they might choose to work for a competitor. So, you’ll lose out on talented people and fall behind our competitors in your company’s output. Employees value a safe workplace and won’t bother applying to companies they view as abusive to their staff.


Added Operational Costs

It costs a considerable amount of money to set up and execute a polygraph policy in the workplace. You’ll need to consult with an attorney and keep them on retainer in case you have any employees or candidates file a complaint against you with the Labor Department.

Hiring a polygraph company also adds costs to your HR processes in candidate assessments and employee management. You’ll need your accounting and HR team to complete a financial evaluation of the costs of adding these resources to your overheads.


Is It Worth It for Employers to Implement Polygraph Policies in the Workplace?

Implementing a polygraph policy in the workplace has plenty of advantages and drawbacks. Its success depends on how the employer structures it and how they roll it out with its team. If done right, the polygraph policy will help the employer reap all the benefits of using this technology without experiencing adverse results.

That’s why it’s critical for employers to work with the right legal team and ensure they hire a polygraph company accredited and approved by the American Polygraph Association (APA). These companies operate with expert knowledge of the EPPA and work with employers to draft compliant policies.

The APA recognizes polygraph companies with the right accreditation to operate in their state, ensuring that their examination team has the necessary credentials and training to design polygraph policies and execute exams within the confines of the law.


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