Can you ask an employee to take a lie detector test?

by Caitlin Nobes23 Jul 2014
Workplace investigations are an HR minefield, and finding the right answers can come down to figuring out who’s telling the truth and who’s fudging the facts. If there were a test to figure out who’s lying through their teeth it might help get results.
 
Lie detectors exist, although they’re not quite as reliable as Hollywood would have us think, but can HR use them?
 
According to Australian company Advanced Polygraph, only NSW has legislation governing the use of polygraph tests.
 
The Lie Detectors Act 1983 restricts the use of lie detector tests in a range of situations, including employment matters.
 
Employers in other states can use the tests, but the employee must consent to undertaking it.
 
Lie detectors should only be used in situations where employers have suffered a specific loss, like the theft of money or property, an investigation has been started and there is reasonable suspicion of the staff member in question.
 
The situation is more cut and dried in some overseas countries.
 
Canadian employees can’t be asked to take a polygraph test, according to Roxx & McBride employment lawyer Ed Canning.
 
“The Employment Standards Act of Ontario prohibits anyone governed by that legislation from requiring, requesting, enabling or influencing, directly or indirectly, an employee to take a lie detector test,” Canning said.
 
Even asking an employee to “voluntarily” take a test is unacceptable, and if you do and an employee is punished for refusing the Ministry of Labour could require your organisation to compensate for any loss of shifts or job. The MOL can also fine an employer for requiring an employee to take a lie detector test.
 
“While the people that administer these tests believe that they are 90 per cent accurate, some critics have said that they are, at best, 65% accurate. That's only 15% better than flipping a coin,” Canning said.
 
 

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