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Is it legal to require a lie detector test?

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in Hiring,Human Resources

Q. I am in the process of interviewing candidates for an administrative position. This person would work very closely with me, and I need to trust him or her completely. Can I bring in a polygraph expert and use lie detector tests during the final interviews?

A. Several laws influence the ability of employers to use polygraph tests on their prospective and current employees. California Labor Code Section 432.2 allows private employers to have prospective and current employees take lie detector tests, but only if the individual submits to the test voluntarily and the employer advises him or her of his or her rights under the law prior to testing.

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act also limits a private employer’s ability to give a lie detector test. This federal law prevents most employers from using polygraph tests to screen potential and current employees. However, the law allows lie detector testing, subject to restrictions, by private employers if the private employer reasonably suspects certain employees of involvement in a workplace incident that resulted in economic loss to the employer (e.g., theft, embezzlement).

You may want to consider using other methods of detecting honesty, such as analyzing body or facial movements, checking references and listening to vocal patterns.


Joseph L. Beachboard is a shareholder with the law firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., in its Los Angeles office. In addition to representing management in a variety of employment matters, he speaks regularly before HR and employer groups.

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