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Other Workplace Standards: Lie Detector Tests


 
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Updated: September 2009


Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 (EPPA)
(
29 USC §2001 et seq.(http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/29/2001.html); 29 CFR Part 801(http://www.dol.gov/cgi-bin/leave-dol.asp?exiturl=http://s.dol.gov/8T&exitTitle=www.ecfr.gov&fedpage=yes))

Who is Covered

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) is administered by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD). The EPPA applies to most private employers. The law does not cover federal, state, and local government agencies.


Basic Provisions/Requirements

The EPPA prohibits most private employers from using lie detector tests, either for pre‑employment screening or during the course of employment. Employers generally may not require or request any employee or job applicant to take a lie detector test, or discharge, discipline, or discriminate against an employee or job applicant for refusing to take a test or for exercising other rights under the Act.

Employers may not use or inquire about the results of a lie detector test or discharge or discriminate against an employee or job applicant on the basis of the results of a test, or for filing a complaint or for participating in a proceeding under the Act.

Subject to restrictions, the Act permits polygraph (a type of lie detector) tests to be administered to certain job applicants of security service firms (armored car, alarm, and guard) and of pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, and dispensers.

Subject to restrictions, the Act also permits polygraph testing of certain employees of private firms who are reasonably suspected of involvement in a workplace incident (theft, embezzlement, etc.) that resulted in specific economic loss or injury to the employer.

Where polygraph examinations are allowed, they are subject to strict standards for the conduct of the test, including the pretest, testing, and post‑testing phases. An examiner must be licensed and bonded or have professional liability coverage. The Act strictly limits the disclosure of information obtained during a polygraph test.


Employee Rights

The EPPA provides that employees have a right to employment opportunities without being subjected to lie detector tests, unless a specific exemption applies. Where polygraph examinations are allowed, they are subject to strict standards at the pre-test, testing, and post-testing stages. Specific notices must be given to employees or prospective employees. The Act also provides employees the right to file a lawsuit for violations of the Act. In addition, the Wage and Hour Division accepts complaints of alleged EPPA violations.


Recordkeeping, Reporting, Notices and Posters


Notices and Posters

Poster.  Every employer subject to EPPA shall post and keep posted on its premises a notice explaining the Act. The notice must be posted in a prominent and conspicuous place in every establishment of the employer where it can readily be observed by employees and applicants for employment. There is no size requirement for the poster. 

The EPPA poster is available in English(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/eppa.htm) and Spanish(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/eppaspan.htm). Posting of the EPPA poster in Spanish is optional.

Notices.  There are specific notices that must be given to examinees and examiners in instances where polygraph tests are permitted:

When a polygraph test is administered pursuant to the economic loss or injury exemption, the employer is required to provide the examinee with a statement prior to the test, in a language understood by the examinee, which fully explains the specific incident or activity being investigated and the basis for testing particular employees. The statement must contain, at a minimum, the following information:

  • An identification with particulars on the specific economic loss or injury to the business of the employer
  • A description of the employee’s access to the property that is the subject of the investigation
  • A detailed description of the basis of the employer’s reasonable suspicion that the employee was involved in the incident or activity under investigation
  • The signature of a person (other than the polygraph examiner) authorized to legally bind the employer

Every employer who requests an employee or prospective employee to submit to a polygraph examination, pursuant to the ongoing investigation, drug manufacturer, or security services EPPA exemptions, must provide:

  • Reasonable written notice of the date, time, and place of the examination and the examinee’s right to consult with legal counsel or an employee representative before each phase of the test.
  • Written notice of the nature and characteristics of the polygraph instrument and examination
  • Extensive written notice explaining the examinee's rights, including a list of prohibited questions and topics, the examinee's right to terminate the examination, and the examinee's right to file a complaint with the Department of Labor alleging violations of EPPA

Employers must also provide written notice to the examiner identifying the persons to be examined.


Recordkeeping

In the limited instances where EPPA permits the administration of polygraph tests, recordkeeping requirements apply both to employers and polygraph examiners. Employers and polygraph examiners must retain required records for a minimum of three years from the date the polygraph examination is conducted (or from the date the examination is requested if no examination is conducted). 

Employers investigating an economic loss or injury must maintain a copy of the statement that sets forth the specific incident or activity under investigation and the basis for testing that particular employee and proof of service of that statement to the examinee.

Employers who manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled substances must maintain records specifically identifying the loss or injury in question and the nature of the employee’s access to the person or property that is the subject of the investigation.

Every employer who requests an employee or prospective employee to submit to a polygraph examination pursuant to the ongoing investigation, drug manufacturer, or security services EPPA exemptions must maintain:

  • A copy of the written statement that sets forth the time and place of the examination and the examinee’s right to consult with counsel
  • A copy of the written notice provided by the employer to the examiner identifying the persons to be examined
  • Copies of all opinions, reports or other records furnished to the employer by the examiner relating to such examinations

All polygraph examiners must maintain all opinions, reports, charts, written questions, lists, and other records relating to polygraph tests of such persons, as well as records of the number of examinations conducted during each day, and the duration of each test period.

All exempt private sector employers and polygraph examiners retained to administer examinations to persons identified by employers must keep the required records safe and accessible at the place or places of employment or business or at one or more established central recordkeeping offices where employment or examination records are customarily maintained. If the records are maintained at a central recordkeeping office, other than in the place or places of employment or business, such records must be made available within 72 hours following notice from the Secretary of Labor or an authorized representative such as Wage and Hour Division personnel.


Reporting

There are no reporting requirements under EPPA.


Penalties/Sanctions

The Secretary of Labor can bring court action to restrain violators and assess civil money penalties up to $10,000 per violation. An employer who violates the law may be liable to the employee or prospective employee for appropriate legal and equitable relief, which may include employment, reinstatement, promotion, and payment of lost wages and benefits.

Any person against whom a civil money penalty is assessed may, within 30 days of the notice of assessment, request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. If dissatisfied with the Administrative Law Judge's decision, such person may request a review of the decision by the Administrative Review Board which the Secretary of Labor has designated to issue final agency decisions.  Final determinations on violations are enforceable through the courts.


Relation to State, Local, and Other Federal Laws

The law does not preempt any provision of any state or local law or any collective bargaining agreement that is more restrictive with respect to lie detector tests.


Compliance Assistance Available

More detailed information, including copies of explanatory brochures and regulatory and interpretative materials, may be obtained from a local Wage and Hour office(http://www.dol.gov/whd/america2.htm).

The Department of Labor provides employers, workers, and others with clear and easy-to-access information and assistance on how to comply with the Employee Polygraph Protection Act. Compliance assistance related to the Act, including the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) Fact Sheet(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs36.pdf), and regulatory and interpretive materials, is available on the Compliance Assistance "By Law"(http://www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/comp-eppa.htm) Web page.


DOL Contacts

Wage and Hour Division(http://www.dol.gov/whd/)
Contact WHD(http://www.dol.gov/whd/contactform.asp)
Tel: 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243); TTY: 1-877-889-5627

The Employment Law Guide is offered as a public resource. It does not create new legal obligations and it is not a substitute for the U.S. Code, Federal Register, and Code of Federal Regulations as the official sources of applicable law. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is complete and accurate as of the time of publication, and this will continue. Later versions of this Guide will be offered at www.dol.gov/compliance or by calling our Toll-Free Help Line at 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365) (1-866-487-2365).

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