Can an Employer Ask You to Take a Polygraph as a Condition of Employment?

Can an Employer Ask You to Take a Polygraph as a Condition of Employment?

If you’re like many people, you’re always on the lookout for a new job – but what if you find one and the employer asks you to take a polygraph?

Can an Employer Ask You to Take a Polygraph as a Condition of Employment?

There’s a law in place that prohibits most private employers from using polygraphs in hiring – it’s the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, or EPPA. The law says that generally, employers aren’t allowed to require (or even request) that a job applicant takes a lie detector test. (The law also says that employers can’t use polygraphs to discharge, discipline or discriminate against a worker who refuses to take one.)

What Employers Are Allowed to Require Polygraphs?

The EPPA applies to most private employers – but it doesn’t apply to federal, state or local government agencies. That means if you apply for a government job, you may be asked to take a polygraph; in that case, it’s likely legal. You do, however, have the choice not to take it (though your decision may affect whether you actually get the job).

Related: Your rights on retaliation in the workplace

What Does the EPPA Allow and Prohibit?

Here’s a basic guide to the Employee Polygraph Protection Act:

  • Most employers may not use lie detector tests in pre-employment screening or during a person’s employment with the company.
  • Most employers can’t require or even request that someone take a polygraph.
  • Employers are not allowed to fire, discipline or discriminate against a person for refusing to take a polygraph.
  • Employers are prohibited from using or inquiring about the results of a polygraph (even if you took it for another reason, such as to comply with a request from law enforcement).
  • Though there are some restrictions, some employers – particularly those involved in security services and pharmaceuticals – may ask some job applicants to take a polygraph.
  • Again, some restrictions apply, but some employers may ask their workers to take polygraphs, such as when something happens that results in a “specific economic loss or injury to the employer.”

Related: What is wage theft in California?

What Should You Do if Your Employer Asks You to Take a Lie Detector Test?

If your employer asks you to take a lie detector test – or if an employer you’re interested in working for does so – you can choose whether to comply or decline. Bear in mind that it’s illegal for most employers to ask job applicants to take a polygraph. However, even if it’s legal, you still don’t have to take one as part of the job application process; you have the right to decline. If you do decline and the employer is within its rights by asking you to take one, the employer may choose not to hire you.

Related: The five most common ways employers in California violate wage and hour laws

What Happens if an Employer Violates the EPPA?

If an employer violates the law, the Secretary of Labor of the United States can bring them to court. Employers can even be ordered to pay civil penalties – that is, they may have to pay fines for violating the law.

Additionally, employers that violate the law may be liable to you, the prospective employee, for “legal and equitable relief.” That may even mean employment – though every case is different, and it doesn’t mean the employer has to hire you. (Another thing to consider: Would you want to work for an employer that violated the EPPA before you were even hired for a job? What would working conditions be like after you were hired?)

Should You Talk to a Lawyer if an Employer Violates the EPPA?

You should absolutely talk to an attorney if you believe an employer has violated the Employee Polygraph Protection Act in your situation, whether you’re a job applicant or a current employee.

Call our office at 818-230-8380-230-8380 or fill out the form below to schedule your free consultation with a Los Angeles and Glendale labor lawyer right away. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and get you started on the right path.

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