It was reported incorrectly in a Federal Page article yesterday that the Polygraph Protection Act of 1987 introduced this week in the Senate exempts the security-guard or pharmaceutical industries. (Published 12/4/87)
The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee next week will begin marking up legislation that would effectively ban 85 percent of the polygraph tests given in private industry.
The proposed polygraph protection act of 1987, introduced in the Senate this week by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), would bar the use of lie detector tests to screen job applicants. The two exceptions are applicants for jobs as security guards and anyone working in the pharmaceutical industry.
The House approved a similar bill last month by 254 to 158.
The impact of the legislation would be primarily in the South. Twenty-one states, primarily in the northern tier of the nation, and the District of Columbia, already restrict or ban such tests.
Supporters of the legislation estimate that 2 million people a year are either given pre-employment tests or are subject to random testing once employed.
Public employes already are protected against polygraph tests except in cases of compelling state interest such as national security or law enforcement.
The bill also would ban the use of random lie detector tests. Private employers could only use polygraph tests in cases where they had a "reasonable suspicion" that an employe had done something wrong. No employe could be fired or disciplined for refusing to take a lie detector test unless there was other evidence to support the request for a test.
This provision would extend a form of job protection to nonunion workers not now available under the law. By requiring that an employer show a reasonable cause before testing, the bill creates an exemption to the "employment at will" doctrine. This is the doctrine that allows a private employer to fire a worker without cause.
Supporters of the bill said they were optimistic about Senate passage. A similar bill died in the Senate late last year, but committee officials said there was more time this year. They noted that the bill has the support of a broad range of groups, from organized labor to major business trade associations.
Kennedy said the bill was designed to preserve the rights of workers while allowing employers to investigate specific economic losses.