As a general rule, employers may not require employees or job applicants to take a polygraph (lie detector) test. The federal Polygraph Protection Act severely restricts the use of polygraph tests with employees or applicants. The Act prohibits most employers from requiring, suggesting, requesting or causing an employee or applicant to submit to a polygraph test, and further bars employers from requesting, using, referring to or inquiring about the results of any prior such test. In addition, the Act prohibits employers from terminating, disciplining or discriminating against an employee or applicant for refusing to take a polygraph test or for related actions.
There are some exceptions to the rule, but those exceptions are limited. A notable exception is for current employees who are reasonably suspected of involvement in a workplace incident that resulted in economic loss or injury to the employer’s business. An example would be a theft or embezzlement investigation. In order to apply that exception, however, the employer must comply strictly with the Act’s notice provisions.