Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Way Cleared for Bill to Ban Most Lie Detector Tests

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Way Cleared for Bill to Ban Most Lie Detector Tests

Article excerpt

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 community.

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 prospective employees."

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 statement.

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 employee.

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 employers.

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 . …

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