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Mandatory Employment Polygraph Tests

Polygraph‘s are voluntary. Except… when they’re not. The cases cited below are citings of legal precedences where mandatory polygraph examinations were upheld in courts from all over the country when someone disputed the whole “mandatory” part. There are numerous precedences where mandatory polygraph examinations have held up in court1, especially in the cases of employment and in cases where the employee was in a high security position such as police or civil service. These are usually pre-employment case or when an employee is suspected of wrong doing.

Because police and government employees are in positions of trust, it is amazing to find that their rights are different from most citizens. Typically, even civilian criminal suspects cannot be forced to take a lie detection exam, but that is not usually the case with police and government employees. While there are plenty of precedents where polygraph exam results CAN be admissible under VERY specific circumstances, for the most part, with a 95% accuracy rating, they are usually used as tools for the prosecution or defense to negotiate with, or to determine involvement.

Equal Opportunity Detection

The Federal EEOC concluded that polygraph tests are non-biased; finds no race, sex, age or national origin bias.2 So, while a polygraph may detect changes in galvanic responses on your skin, it doesn’t care what color it is.

Law Enforcement Polygraph Cases

  • MICHIGAN – Federal appeals panel sustains the demotion of a police lieutenant who refused to submit to a polygraph examination as part of an internal investigation. The panel rejected her First Amendment objections to the test. “It is clear in this case that the plaintiff’s ‘speech’ was of no public concern whatever and, therefore, is not protected by the First Amendment.” Luty v. City of Saginaw, #07-2035, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 2674 (Unpub. 6th Cir.).
  • NEW YORK – Appellate court dismisses the appeal of a police applicant that was rejected because his polygraph examination indicated deception concerning his involvement with illegal drugs and narcotics. Management did not act irrationally or arbitrarily in relying on the results of their own polygraph test as well as a secondary review conducted by the Vermont state police. Mullen v. County of Suffolk, #2006-03220, 2007 N.Y. App. Div. Lexis 9671 (3rd Dept.).
  • MASSACHUSETTS – Town did not violate state polygraph statute by requiring police officer, accused of sexually molesting two minors, to submit to test to determine whether he should be disciplined after he was granted immunity from prosecution. Furtado v. Town of Plymouth, #06-P-892, 69 Mass. App. Ct. 319, 867 N.E.2d 801, 2007 Mass. App. Lexis 663, 26 IER Cases (BNA) 401.
  • MISSOURI – Appellate court in Missouri refuses to overturn an officer’s termination for excessive force and lying because the Police Board considered testimony that he had failed a polygraph examination. There was sufficient other evidence to believe the charges. Kendrick v. Bd. of Police Cmsnrs. of K.C. Mo., 945 S.W.2d 649, 1997 Mo.App. Lexis 948. [1998 FP 91-2]
  • MISSOURI – Missouri appellate court sustains termination of officer who refused polygraph; results inadmissible however. Sorbello v. City of Maplewood, 610 S.W.2d 375 (Mo.App. 1980).
  • WISCONSIN – Wisconsin’s Fair Employment Act has been amended to allow a state law enforcement agency to administer the test to prospective employees, effective 5/16/97. FEP Manual (BNA) 458:8661 {N/R}
  • CALIFORNIA – Appellate court upholds LAPD requirement that officers who volunteer for sensitive assignments must submit to a polygraph test. Los Ang. Police Prot. League v. City of Los. Ang., 42 Cal.Rptr.2d 23, 10 IER Cases (BNA) 1192, 1995 Cal.App. Lexis 563. [1995 FP 154]
  • MARYLAND – Maryland appellate court upholds involuntary transfer of all drug enforcement officers who cannot pass a periodic polygraph exam. Calhoun v. Cmsnr. Balt. City Police, 103 Md.App. 660, 654 A.2d 905 (1995). [1995 FP 140]
  • MARYLAND – Federal appeals court upholds compulsory polygraph examinations of police officers, demanded by their superiors as part of an administrative investigation of potentially criminal conduct. Wiley v. Mayor of Baltimore, 1995 U.S.App. Lexis 4148 (4th Cir.). [1995 FP 91]
  • COLORADO – Colorado appellate court upholds the termination of police officer who refused to take a polygraph exam after his involvement in an off-duty vehicle collision. Harris v. City of Colo. Springs, 867 P.2d 217, 9 IER Cases (BNA) 142 (Colo. App. 1993). [1994 FP 59]
  • TEXAS – Federal court in Texas upholds disciplinary action against a police officer who refused to take a polygraph test after his arrest for possession of marijuana. Soto v. City of Laredo, 764 F.Supp. 448 & 454 (S.D.Tex. 1991). [1992 FP 106-7]
  • WASHINGTON – Applicant for word processor position with state patrol was lawfully required to pass a polygraph exam. Washington state supreme court rejects all constitutional challenges. O’Hartigan v. State Dept. Persnl., 821 P.2d 44 (Wash. 1991). [1992 FP 171]
  • OHIO – Ohio Supreme Court upholds the right of a police chief to order subordinates to take a polygraph examination when they are under suspicion of misconduct. It is unnecessary for the department to have a rule requiring such exams. City of Warrensville Heights v. Jennings, Ohio St 3d 206, 569 N.E.2d 489 (Ohio 1991).

If you would like to discuss the professional services of a polygraph examiner, please contact The Polygraph Examiner at 1-800-497-9305.

  1. AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES: Employment & Labor Law for Public Safety Agencies http://www.aele.org/law/Digests/empl157.html []
  2. EEOC Notice N-915 (2/2/87). []


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