Do lie detector tests administered by employers violate state or federal law?

UPDATED: Feb 17, 2012

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Do lie detector tests administered by employers violate state or federal law?

I am an employee with an online jewelry distributor. Though I did not steal anything, our employer submitted me and my colleagues to a lie detector test after alleging theft in our department. Prior to the test we were told to sign a form saying that we agreed to the test. We did so under duress, however: we were told that if we did not sign the form it would mean that we were hiding something–implying obvious job consequences). Under stress I was administered the test first, in part as a means to demonstrate to the other employees how the test worked.

Asked on February 17, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Sometimes employers require background checks to be done before hiring but submitting to a lie detector test does sound to be a form of harassment and creating a hostile work condition. You should silently consult with your state's department of labor and see if this is even on the books as a prohibited act. If not and since this is an online company, you should also check with the state in which the company is located to ensure they are not running afoul of their state's labor laws, either.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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