Polygraph Protection Act

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act prohibits most private employers from using lie detector tests for either pre-employment screening or during the course of employment.


Employers are generally prohibited from requiring or requesting any employee or job applicant to take a lie detector test and from discharging, disciplining, or discriminating against an employee or prospective employee for refusing to take a test or for exercising other rights under the Act.


Federal, state, and local governments are not affected by the law. Also, the law does not apply to tests given by the federal government to certain private individuals engaged in national security–related activities. The Act permits polygraph (a kind of lie detector) tests to be administered in the private sector, subject to restrictions, to certain prospective employees of security service firms (e.g., armored car, alarm, and guard) and of pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, and dispensers.

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

Examinee Rights

Where polygraph tests are permitted, they are subject to numerous strict standards concerning the conduct and length of the test. Examinees have a number of specific rights, including the right to a written notice before testing, the right to refuse or discontinue a test, and the right not to have test results disclosed to unauthorized persons.


The U.S. Secretary of Labor may bring court actions to restrain violations and assess civil penalties of as much as $10,000 against violators. Employees or job applicants may also bring their own court actions.

Additional Information

Additional information may be obtained, and complaints of violations may be filed, at local offices of the Wage and Hour Division, which are listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Government, Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration.



Wage and Hour Division


Washington, D.C. 20210

WH Publication 1462

September 1988