Polygraph Test at Work – Is It Legal?

Can an employer compel an employee to take a polygraph test?

Most people understand that commercial information in the work environment is confidential but what happens if there is a breach of trust and company information is shared with the wrong people or worse if an employee uses it to cause harm to the business, can the employer force employees to take a polygraph test to find and dismiss the culprit.

What is a polygraph test?

According to Labor guide, it is a test used to verify a person’s truthfulness and is often called a ‘Lie Detector Test.’

What does the law say about this?

There is currently no law regulating this in South Africa .The general principle is that it is against the Constitution of South Africa to compel a person to undergo a polygraph examination, unless she or he consents to it. The consent must be in writing.

  • The individual should be informed that—
  • the examinations are voluntary;
  • only questions discussed prior to the examination will be used;
  • he/she has a right to have an interpreter, if necessary;
  • should he/she prefer, another person may be present during the examination,
  • provided that person does not interfere in any way with the proceedings;

So when can an employer use a polygraph test?

Generally, employers are permitted to use the polygraph to investigate specific incidents where—

  • Employees had access to the property or information which is the subject of the investigation;
  • There is a reasonable suspicion that the employee was involved in the incident;
  • There has been economic loss or injury to the employer’s business like theft of company property;
  • The employer is combating dishonesty in positions of trust;
  • The employer is combating serious alcohol, illegal drugs or narcotics abuse and fraudulent behavior within the company;
  • The employer is combating deliberate falsification of documents and lies regarding true identity of the people involved.

Can an employee be dismissed from the result of a polygraph test?

The courts have confirmed that the results of polygraph tests alone are not enough to justify an employee’s dismissal. There should at least be other circumstantial evidence to confirm the polygraph test result before a person can be dismissed. If an employer forces you to have a polygraph test you can object speak to your legal provider about how.

*Adapted from material from labourguide .

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