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

During an investigation it can be hard to separate the truth from the lies. Can HR ask employees to put their stories to the test?

Can you ask an employee to take a lie detector test?
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?
 
In New Zealand, the technology is only just starting to take off in the employment arena.
 
There are only two licensed polygraph testers in the country – Craig Gubbins of Personal Verification and Lie Detector New Zealand director Barry Newman.
 
Polygraph tests are being offered to companies and recruitment agencies for pre-employment checks.
 
Employment lawyer Blair Scotland told Stuff that employers had to make sure that they only collected information that was relevant to the role in question.
 
“Are the questions fair, relevant and is the manner of collecting it satisfactory?”
 
Assistant privacy commissioner Katrine Evans said that employers needed to consider whether using a lie detector was really necessary.
 
"Before shelling out for a highly intrusive service like polygraph testing, common sense as well as privacy rules mean you should check that it's something that you really need and that you have a really good case which can be justified under the Privacy Act," she told Stuff.
 
Gubbins said that any information collected from polygraphs or other checks was destroyed after six months.
 
The rules are more cut and dried overseas, with Canadian employees protected from being asked to take a lie detector 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% 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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