An Administrative Law Judge in the Department of Labor ordered West Valley Ear, Nose and Throat – a medical clinic based in Phoenix, Arizona – to pay $15,000 in civil penalties after the employer violated federal law by requesting that five employees submit to polygraph tests.
Investigators with the Department's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) found that West Valley Ear, Nose and Throat - after noticing ongoing cash shortages - requested that the employees take the tests. These circumstances failed to meet the legal exemption requirements of the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA). WHD also determined the employer attempted to polygraph all five employees illegally when it failed to identify the "reasonable suspicion" it had of the alleged employee responsible for the economic loss. In addition, West Valley Ear, Nose and Throat failed to identify a reasonable suspicion for any of the five employees, another EPPA violation.
"Federal law makes it clear that most employers cannot require their employees to take lie detector tests," said Regional Solicitor Janet Herold, in Los Angeles, California. "There are many other ways to deal with problems, including suspected theft, on the job."
"The U.S. Department of Labor provides many tools to help employers comply with the law and understand how to avoid mistakes like these," said Ruben Rosalez, Wage and Hour Regional Administrator. "We encourage all employers to reach out to us at any time for assistance – we are available to answer any questions they may have."
Enacted in 1988, the EPPA generally prohibits employers from requiring or requesting any employees or job applicants to take a lie detector test, and from discharging, disciplining or discriminating against an employee or prospective employee for refusing to take a test or for exercising other rights under the act. An employer may ask an employee to take a polygraph test only when there is a reasonable suspicion that the worker was involved in misconduct that resulted in economic harm to the employer.