Good news from Washington (can you believe it?) for those of us who
have in the past been forced to take a lie detector test for the
purpose of gaining employment - U.S. House of Representatives and
Senate negotiators have unanimously approved a compromise bill that
would ban most lie detector tests for private employees and job
applicants, clearing the way for swift final passage by Congress.
In my own case, I was a college student and wanted to go to work
for Wilderness Adventurer in Oklahoma City. As part of the
employment process, I was forced to take a polygraph, my first, and
hopefully my last.
The results? I was rated as a medium risk by the company - I
can't remember the name - but what was more interesting is that
during the hour-long examination, I was also accused (by the
machine) of having committed grand larceny, arson and a host of
other crimes which I had not committed.
In Washington, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, ranking Republican on
the Labor and Human Resources Committee, said he would urge
President Reagan to sign the bill, which he said is endorsed by
Labor Secretary Ann McLaughlin and supported by the business
Rep. Pat Williams, D-Mont., predicted early House approval of
the bipartisan measure, which he said would "stop the explosion, the
epidemic of lie detector tests used against employees and
Williams and other House negotiators accepted without dissent a
Senate amendment that would allow private employers to administer
carefully controlled lie detector tests as part of a theft
investigation within a company.
The conditions for such tests are that the employee had access
to the stolen property, that the employer had a "reasonable
suspicion" that the worker was involved and that the employer
details the incident and the reasons for his suspicions in a written
Senate negotiators accepted a House provision allowing employers
to give polygraph tests to security guards and employees handling
certain controlled drugs, as long as strict standards are met and
the results are not the sole basis for adverse action against an
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Labor and Human
Resources panel, said the bill would effectively prohibit as much as
85 percent of lie detector tests currently administered by private
The bill would not cover federal, state or local government
employees or private contractors involved in government intelligence
or national security work.
According to a summary of the bill, it is intended to "eliminate
the denial of employment opportunities by prohibiting the least
accurate yet most widely used lie detector tests - pre-employment
and random examinations - and providing standards for a safeguards
from abuse during tests not prohibited."
Williams said the House, which approved its original bill last
Nov. 4, was expected to pass the compromise soon, followed by the
Senate, which had approved its version of the measure on March 3.
"I think we have produced a bill which will offer long-overdue
protections for millions of employees and job applicants,
long-overdue standards for those tests not prohibited by the
legislation and, hopefully, a bill which the president will sign
into law as soon as Congress sends it to him," Kennedy said.
Hatch said business executives, who initially opposed the bill,
eventually supported it when they "realized that these quickie
polygraph tests are . …