Privacy Considerations: Legal and Otherwise
There is no overarching federal law on privacy rights, although laws of this kind have been considered by Congress on occasion. The U.S. Constitution does not explicitly guarantee privacy, but the Supreme Court, nevertheless, has mentioned or recognized such a right in various decisions, drawing upon various amendments to the Constitution. A number of federal laws deal with privacy considerations in one context or another. In general, these laws protect the privacy of government employees more than employees in the private sector, although the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 does the reverse.
Some state constitutions provide for privacy protections. A number of states have passed privacy laws of one kind or another, although employment matters in the private sector are covered less often than other types of privacy. Also, states may recognize a common law cause of action for invasion of privacy. In general, the state protections are a patchwork. Honesty tests may run afoul of them, but to date few such cases have been brought. This may be because there is no relevant law in a given jurisdiction, or because few people are aware of laws that do exist.
Certainly privacy is a strongly held value in the United States, quite independent of whether that value is codified in law. Honesty tests can violate that value because they inquire about things that people believe they should have the right to keep to themselves. This is a particular concern if the test is administered to current employees, and test completion is a condition for continued employment. On the other hand, answering the questions is more a voluntary matter when honesty tests are used for pre-employment screening. Applicants