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Using polygraph (lie detector) tests in the workplace

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In a not so popular recently released Keifer Sutherland movie, the polygraph test was the determining factor deciding who the bad guy was. And we all should have paid more attention because we would have seen that the bad guy was the one who didn't take the test.

In this movie one of the many good guys was wrongly accused because when he took the polygraph test there were things he needed to hide, but he was not hiding what he was being accused of. Regardless, the polygraph test cannot tell the tester what they are trying to hide, but only that they are hiding something - so in this movie, the wrong man ended up going to jail.

In the past lie detector tests (polygraphs) have been used to decide who to hire and fire. More than three hundred thousand people a year were fired due to the results of a lie detector test in the work place. Is this fair?

Most people do not believe that it is fair. As a lie detector test cannot actually measure if you are telling fact or fiction, but rather measures the level of your emotions and constant and steady they stay. Well what about people similar to me who's emotions go on an off the charts on a daily bases depending not even on what outside sources are saying, but upon our own thoughts? A lie detector test doesn't seem fair in this case, as we would probably be nervous enough to fail before we begin.

In order to determine the range of your emotions those admineresting the lie detector test have to ask embarrassing and personal questions to begin with. This does not seem fair or moral in the work place where those listening could potentially include fellow employees or superiors. Also divulging certain information in the work place has never been necessary and so long as your work persona is moral and honest, the rest of your life need be well enough alone (not insinuating everyone has something to hide - very many people probably do not).

For these reason the Employee Polygraph Protection Act was instated in 1988 to protect employees from employers who might use them to exploit other employees, or to unjustly admit to something they probably did not do.

However, in the state and federal government lie detector tests have not been banned. This does not worry most people as the government has been set up for the peoples protection and if they feel their employees are being dishonest it has a much broader effect on the people than if payless feels they have a dishonest employee. You can see in the latter example how being a Payless employee and knowing your superiors where on a witch hunt, could be rather frightening. Most of their employees are High school age or younger and they would be rather frightened or nervous to take such a test, as well, why would an employer need to know any personal information about these retail sales people? They would not. In these situations there are other means for finding out the truth, and that is why this act was instated.

Pharmaceutical companies are also not included in the act, as they do need to make sure their employees are not addicted to any type of drug before allowing them to work there, or continue to work there. This information though can also be found out through other means and a lie detector test is only used in extreme cases.

Although lie detector test have been removed from the work force in general, tests such as drug testing have not. As these tests are not invasive nor do they reveal unnecessary personal information, I should imagine they will always remain in the workforce.

A lie detector test can be a good thing if used appropriately, but the work force in general is probably not appropriate.

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Posted by DF
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