The polygraph examiner is responsible for carrying out the lie detector test. These individuals have a set of duties to the employer and the employee that they must balance before, during, and after the exam process.

The examiner is a neutral party to the polygraph policy, acting as sort of a “referee” to the process. They have a job to do but cannot favor one side or the other in their obligations. Polygraph examiners must adhere to a strong code of ethics at all times.

A corrupt examiner could influence the polygraph results in favor of the employer, violating “The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988” (EPPA). Doing so could place the employer at risk of an investigation into the company and the examiner by the US Labor Department.

If found violating the EPPA, the employer faces huge fines that may jeopardize the organization’s livelihood. In this instance, the examiner risks losing their job and ability to practice their career in any state or country.

So, polygraph examiners must always adhere to their code of ethics. This post unpacks the ethical responsibilities of the examiner to the employer and the examinees.


Why Trust the Polygraph Examiner?

Why should we trust polygraph examiners? What’s stopping them from choosing the employer’s side and bending to their whim? After all, the employer is the client, so shouldn’t the polygraph examiner ensure they give them the result they want from the exam?

Many people have these questions running through their minds when they find out they must go for a polygraph exam. They view the examiner as the enemy and don’t trust them. These are fair judgments.

The examinee (employee) enters the unknown when dealing with a polygraph exam. They have no experience with it, so it scares them. They feel their anxiety levels rise as the test day approaches. When they enter the exam room, they feel they’re confronting someone that wants to take their livelihood and career away from them.

However, that’s not the case. The polygraph examiner has as much of an obligation to the examinee as they do to the employer. They ensure the employer meets the requirements of the EPPA and assures the employee they have nothing to worry about with taking the exam.


Polygraph Examiner Training & Ethics

How can we be sure the polygraph examiner is neutral and unbiased in the exam room? Well, the examiner spends many years studying polygraphy before they ever step into the exam room. The examiner starts their post-high school education by attending university.

While there, they’ll study criminal justice and psychology courses. After four years, they’ll graduate with a BA or BSc, but the learning continues beyond there. The examiner’s next stop in their educational career is polygraph school.

The examiner spends another two years studying at a specialized school where they learn the specifics of operating the polygraph machine, conducting tests, and the laws surrounding the administration of polygraph tests in the public and private sectors.

Along with this training, they take extensive classes surrounding the ethics involved in their role as an examiner. The American Polygraph Association controls all the course material and curriculum covering the polygraph schools’ education of the examiners they send into the workforce.

The APA strongly emphasizes the importance of ethics in its curriculum. They ensure that all examiners going through their programs fully grasp their ethical responsibilities before graduation.

After the examiner graduates from polygraph school, they’ll join a polygraph company. They’ll spend the next one to two years shadowing qualified polygraph examiners, learning the ropes of how to administer a lie detector test.

So, it’s around seven years before the examiner sits behind the examination desk and conducts a lie detector test.


Obligations to Employers


Adhere to the Law

The employer implementing the polygraph policy in the workplace contracts the polygraph firm. They appoint an examiner to assist with carrying it out. The examiner must adhere to the legislation surrounding the EPPA at all times.

So, the examiner must have full knowledge of the EPPA and the laws surrounding using polygraph policies in the workplace. The examiner must know their role in polygraph sciences and always act with full integrity when working with their clients.

The examiner must respect the law and value its role in commerce and society. They must have a clean criminal record and cannot have any previous adverse encounters with law enforcement or the justice system.


Work with Attorneys

When an employer decides to implement the polygraph policy, they require the assistance of a labor lawyer to help guide them through the processes involved with the EPPA. The examiner works in collaboration with the employer’s counsel to establish the parameters of the polygraph policy.

The examiner must have a good grasp of labor law and how it pertains to polygraph sciences and their use in the workplace. They must collaborate with the lawyer with the employer’s interests at heart and in good faith. If the lawyer is corrupt, the examiner must know when to walk away from their appointment and cease their commitment to the employer.


Advise Employers

There’s a lot involved with setting up a polygraph policy in the workplace. The employer relies on the examiner’s and their attorney’s expertise to create the paperwork necessary for employee onboarding to the polygraph exam. They assist the employer and attorney with structuring all documents relating to the policy and its interaction with the employees.

The examiner advises the employer on the right way to roll out the polygraph policy, ensuring they do so within the guidelines set by the EPPA. The examiner must always act with integrity, ensuring they have their client’s interests at heart. If the examiner doesn’t check the policy crosses all the T’s and dots the I’s, it could result in huge financial penalties from the US Labor department.


Prepare the Playing Field

The polygraph examiner has a duty to the employer to ensure the exam occurs in the right setting. If the employer doesn’t have adequate facilities to carry out the test, they’ll recommend a facility at the examiner’s offices or a third-party venue to conduct the test.

The examiner ensures they maintain all their equipment to working standards for accuracy. If the examiner’s equipment has any faults, it could dramatically affect the outcome of the exam. Inaccurate results waste the employer’s time and money setting up the polygraph policy.

Therefore, the examiner must act in good faith and ensure they set the right playing field for the rollout and execution of the polygraph policy.


Obligations to Employees


Remain Impartial & Objective

When employees sit in the exam room and start the polygraph exam, they usually feel nervous. It’s normal for the employee to feel anxious about the situation and wonder if the polygraph examiner is acting on behalf of their interests or the employers.

However, it’s not a zero-sum game in the exam room. The polygraph examiner aims to remain impartial and objective during the polygraph process. They can’t take the side of the employer or the employee. Their role is to act as a neutral party, looking at the evidence to determine an outcome.


Don’t Display Authority

The examiner cannot display authority over the employee during the polygraph examination. They play the role of a neutral party and cannot force the employee to do anything against their will during the examination process. For instance, they cannot demand the employee answer their questions or tell them to stay in the room if the employee wants to leave.

The examiner acts with the employee’s best interests in mind but from an objective perspective. Their code of ethics doesn’t permit them to judge the employee’s behavior if they decide to leave the room or want to end the session. They must allow the free release of the employee if they choose to end the session.


Inform the Examinee of their Rights

The examiner must inform the employee of their rights before they start the polygraph exam. The EPPA is clear about the examiner’s role and the employer’s responsibilities when executing the polygraph exam. If the employer made a mistake with how they structured the polygraph exam, the examiner must have the integrity to disqualify the session and inform the employee.

Before starting the exam, the examiner will review all the polygraph policy documents. It’s their job to ensure that the employee signed all the paperwork involved with notifying them of their rights before they start the session. If the employee didn’t complete the paperwork, they must do so before starting the exam.


Don’t Overstep with Questions

The examiner must stick to the questions mentioned in the polygraph policy. Before starting the exam, they must make the employee aware of all the questions they intend to ask in the session. The examiner must also ask the employee if they have objections to the questions or want to leave anything out of the session.

The examiner may not use intimidation tactics if they suspect the examinee is acting deceptively. They must ensure they stick to the script and cannot grill the employee as if they are an authority acting in a law enforcement capacity. If the examinee wishes to end the session and refuses to answer further questions, the examiner cannot pressure them into doing so.

The examiner is not permitted to ask the examinee about their social or personal life. If the examinee wishes to divulge this information, that is their choice, but the ethical examiner will remind the examinee that they have no obligation to do so.


Make Examinees Feel Comfortable

The role of the examiner in the exam room is two-fold. They must ensure they carry out the lie detector test and make the examinee feel comfortable before taking the test. As mentioned, the examinee usually feels nervous when they enter the exam room. So, the examiner must do their best to make the examinee feel at ease before they start the test.

The examiner has a duty to answer all the employee’s questions regarding the session, the questions asked, how the polygraph machine works, and their concerns about the process.


Don’t Rely Wholly on Technology

The examiner must have the integrity to admit when the polygraph machine may be making an inaccurate judgment concerning deceptive behavior. If they believe the lie detector is generating a false positive, they must act in the employee’s interest and uncover why they might be creating this issue.

The examiner is well aware that nervous examinees may flag false positives during the exam process. They must discern the difference and not simply write off the employee as acting deceptively. The examiner cannot work in the employer’s interest and use a false positive to incur deceptive behavior and prevent the fair judgment of the employee.


What are the Risks of Examiners Acting Unethically?

If the examiner acts unethically, there’s a good chance the employee will file a complaint against them and the employer. They do this with legal assistance from an attorney specializing in labor law. The attorney files their case with the US Labor Department on their behalf.

The Labor Department follows up on this case with the employer and examiner, and they’re thorough with their investigation. If they discover the employer or examiner is violating the EPPA or acting unethically, they’ll penalize the employer financially and notify the APA.

An adverse outcome in the investigation places the examiner’s career in jeopardy. They risk throwing their reputation and career away. That means they’ll never be able to practice as a polygraph examiner again, and they waste the six to seven years of study and all the finances they spent on their education.


How Do Polygraph Companies Ensure Examiner Integrity?

While polygraph examiners risk their careers if they act unethically, they still might veer to the side of corruption. It’s important to remember the polygraph examiner works for a company, and the company values its reputation.

If one of their examiners is accused of corruption, it could ruin their business. So, to ensure examiner integrity, the company will regularly test the examiners. They do so by implementing a polygraph policy testing the examiner for corrupt activity.