Polygraph testing in the workplace


Polygraph testing in the workplace


Polygraph testing – is there a fishy smell in the air? Hmm, I thought so too. Sometimes you just have a gut feeling that something isn’t exactly what can be seen by the eye, but there is no way to find out what really happened except for asking the people that were there. This can prove to be a nightmare.



When bad things happen, and when businesses are at risk, it is often difficult for people to choose to tell the truth and confess to crimes and misconducts (which can be mistakes) when they know they might get into trouble for things that they have done. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to turn to methods that are a little stricter and evidence-based than a mere conversation. Read this short guide on polygraph testing in the workplace for more information on how to handle these situations.




There are often situations that occur in businesses and other industries they put these businesses and their employees at risk. These situations can include things such as financial risks, fraudulent activities, misconduct in the workplace, excessive use of alcohol, drugs, and narcotics, or stolen goods due to internal or external theft. There are instances that occur in which the involved parties are afraid to bear witness to what they have seen or done because they are worried about the trouble that they might get into with the law.


Here is an example of an instance that can occur in a company that sells wine and how a polygraph test might be involved. Employee A sees Employee C packing a box of wine into the boot of her car. Employee A asks Employee C why they are packing this wine into their boot, and Employee C reminds Employee A that the alcohol ban is about to kick back into place. Employee A giggles and let’s Employee C continue with this action of misconduct.



The manager of the wine company later realizes that the numbers in the accounting books are just not adding up. This manager decides to begin an investigation to find out where all the missing boxes of wine have disappeared to. Due to the alcohol ban, this company is at the risk of getting into major trouble for selling wine while it is against the law to do so. Therefore, these numbers that do not add up in the accounting books, place this company at the risk of getting into trouble with the law. When the manager approaches Employees A and C to ask if they know anything about the situation, as both have hands-on contact with the wine boxes in stock, both Employee A and C claim not to know anything about the missing stock. The manager must decide whether it is appropriate for a polygraph test to be used as a means of collecting evidence for this investigation.


However, before a polygraph test even becomes a method of choice, there are many questions to be asked: Are Employees A and C obliged to take a polygraph test? Will Employee A get into trouble if they were lying about not knowing anything? Will Employee C get into trouble with the law because of evidence that was found in the polygraph test? Is the manager allowed to subject the employees to a test of such nature?



What is a polygraph test and how or when is it used?


A polygraph test, also referred to as a lie detector test, is a method of measuring and recording psychological indicators such as blood pressure, respiration, pulse, and skin conductivity, while person is asked a series of questions. During this test, if a person produces a deceptive answer, the physiological responses that are seen can be differentiated from those associated with the truth.

So, in short, a polygraph test is an examination used to detect deceit or to verify a person’s honesty. Polygraph tests are frequently used by employers to confirm an employee’s truthfulness and honesty in a situation. Unfortunately, they are currently no laws or specific labour legislations that govern the use of polygraph testing in an employment context. However, an employee’s rights regarding the abuse of the information that is collected during the test are protected by the Constitution. Employees should always be aware of their rights including the right to privacy and the rights to not incriminate oneself. There are rules in place that protect employees’ rights against the use of the information they provide during a polygraph test as it is possible for a company’s private contract to state that polygraph tests may be utilized during disciplinary hearings or other types of investigations.



Are polygraph tests compulsory in the workplace?



If there has been a situation in the workplace that calls for a polygraph test to take place, an employee cannot be forced to undergo polygraph testing without a collective or written agreement or a statement in the contract of employment. According to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (the CCMA), any agreement for the use of polygraph testing must be provided in writing.


It has been advised that all employees ensure that the following clauses are added to their employment contracts:


1. An employee agrees to undergo testing for the sole purpose of enabling an employer to apply rules and policies etc. This testing will not be discriminatory in anyway may include but is not reserved to:
a. Fingerprint examinations; b. polygraph tests;
c. breathalyser tests; d. and medical testing.
2. The above clause is permission granted by the employee only under the fact that it is necessary for the protection of the employers business and that the privacy and rights of the employee will be respected.


Even if an employee is contractually obligated to undergo polygraph testing, the CCMA states that there are still a few things that an employee needs to be informed about, before the testing procedure begins:


• Polygraph testing is voluntary (unless the employee has previously consented to be tested in a contractual agreement)
• All employees have the right to an interpreter during polygraph tests
• Employees may request to have a third-party present during the polygraph test (provided that this person does not interfere with the polygraph testing procedure)
• All questions need to be made clear to the employee before the polygraph test takes place and no additional questions may be sprung upon the employee during the polygraph test
• No discrimination, abuse, or threats of any kind will be tolerated during polygraph testing • No abuse of polygraph testing information will be tolerated whatsoever




When is it appropriate for an employer to make use of polygraph testing?


Polygraph testing is most made use of when there is a risk factor that may cause risk to an employer’s business or the financial status thereof. Polygraph testing is used when there has been economic loss or financial degrading of an employer’s business as a result of some specific incident. Employers typically use polygraph tests to investigate particular circumstances, usually including those when employees had access to property that has gone missing or property that is the subject of investigation for some or other reason. If an employee is reasonably suspected of having involvement with the subject of investigation, polygraph testing maybe necessary in order to prove this employee’s innocence. Polygraph testing is also often utilized in situations where there has been a break of trust (e.g. if a senior employee has not carried out duties responsibly). Another instance, in which polygraph testing may be utilized, is if an employee is suspected of excessive use of alcohol, illegal drugs or narcotics.


Here follows a summary of possible situations in which polygraph testing may be used in the workplace:


• If there is reasonable suspicion of an employee’s involvement in a serious situation • If there has been financial loss or damage to an employer’s business
• If an employer is trying to prevent actions of dishonesty from employees in positions of trust • If an employer suspects the excessive use of alcohol, illegal drugs or narcotics
• If an employer is undergoing an investigation into fraudulent behaviour


Do polygraph tests hold any weighting with the CCMA?


There have been cases with polygraph tests and their results that have been accepted as evidence by the CCMA. Sometimes, the polygraph tester or individual tasked with carrying out the polygraph test could be called on as an expert witness. This expert witness’s evidence could be needed to establish the reliability of the outcomes of the test. The task of the commissioner at the CCMA is to realize the reliability or admissibility of the evidence. With the CCMA, polygraph tests may not be used to imply guilt but may be used as evidence to support other available evidence that suggests that an employee may have committed some sort of misconduct.


In other words, a polygraph test may not be the sole responsibility of the indication of guilt of an employee but may serve as a piece of evidence against an employee in an investigation of an employee’s misconduct.


In the absence of SA legislation regarding polygraph testing, the common law has developed to the point where the law system will accept polygraph testing under certain conditions:


1. The polygrapher must be fully registered and qualified
2. The consent of the employee undergoing polygraph testing must have been given
3. The polygraph test must be used to confirm or support evidence such as circumstantial evidence


We hope that this article was helpful to you if you are merely interested in polygraph testing in the workplace or if you currently find yourself in a sticky situation at work. A simple piece of advice that is universally powerful: “honesty is the best policy”. If you find yourself in a position where you must


choose between deceit and honesty, always choose the truth! And another powerful bit of advice: if you require additional help regarding your polygraph testing needs, turn to Polygraph Truths.


At Polygraph Truths, we are equipped to help you solve your personal or professional problems. In this world, there are many people that are deceitful and dishonest and at Polygraph Truth, we have experienced polygrapher professionals, as well as top class polygraph machines, that can help you to solve the mystery is in your business and can equip you to make those almost-impossible decisions. At Polygraph Truths, the polygraphing services are carried out by experienced and professional polygraphers who have the necessary qualifications to operate polygraph machines and analyse the results.


If your business is under financial strain due to inconspicuous activities, we at Polygraph Truths can help you. If all the requirements from the CCMA are followed, we will be able to undergo polygraph testing with you and your employees to help you uncover the truth. Polygraph Truths is equipped with the professional expertise to guide you on all the matters mentioned above and more. With Polygraph Truths and the services that we offer, you are guaranteed to walk away with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.