We were asked recently whether an employer could require employees to submit to a lie detector test.  The answer, in almost all cases, is no.  The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 generally prevents employers from using lie detector tests either for pre-employment screening or during the course of employment, with certain limited exceptions.

The EPPA prohibits an employer from requiring (or even asking) an employee or prospective employee to take a lie detector test.  It also prohibits an employer from using or inquiring about the results of any lie detector test taken by an employee or prospective employee.  Finally, the EPPA prohibits employers from discharging, disciplining, discriminating against, or denying employment to any employee or prospective employee for refusal to take a lie detector test, among other things.

Government employers are typically exempt from the EPPA.  All employers who are subject to the EPPA are required to post a notice on its premises.  You can download a copy here.  A good spot would be the location where other workplace notices — OSHA, FLSA, etc. — are posted.

If you have questions about the limited circumstances under which a private employer may use a polygraph test, please consult counsel before taking any action in that regard.  The EPPA not only allows the Department of Labor to assess money violations of up to $10,000 per violation; it also allows employees to bring a civil action for damages against the employer.  Better safe than sorry!