An employee facing discipline may bristle if you choose to believe someone else’s version of what happened instead of his own. He may even offer to take a lie detector test to prove what he’s saying is true.
You don’t have to accept that offer. Courts hesitate to second-guess employers that are trying to manage their workforces. That means they generally won’t view your refusal as proof that you were out to “get” the employee.
Recent case: Steven Harris, who is black, was fired after a contractor claimed Harris had offered to expedite payment of an invoice in exchange for a bribe. “Pay me,” the contractor alleged Harris had said, “and I’ll approve your work.” Harris also got into an argument with his supervisor.
He sued, alleging race discrimination and retaliation.
As proof the employer discriminated, Harris argued that he had offered to take a lie detector test that would demonstrate he hadn’t solicited a bribe or argued with his boss.
The court said the employer’s rejection of the offer was irrelevant—the employer was free to choose whom to believe when there were conflicting accounts of what happened. (Harris v. Mississippi Transportation Commission, No. 09-60043, 5th Cir., 2009)
Final note: Before considering the use of lie detector tests to determine who is telling the truth, do some research. They may be popular law enforcement tools, but their reliability is open to question.
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