Polygraph Tests: An Unfair Tool of Limited Value
The question of whether you can collect Oklahoma unemployment after refusing a polygraph test at work hinges on the extent to which you were obligated by your job to accept polygraph testing.
In most jobs, you may not be required to take a polygraph test. Some jobs, however, polygraph tests may be required. Refusing a test in those circumstances can negatively affect your claim for Oklahoma unemployment.
The polygraph test is a controversial test that has limited legal value. They are not usually admitted into court as evidence. A polygraph or lie detector test compares biometric readings to answers given from a subject to their biometric reading baseline levels established at the beginning of the test, looking for anomalies that indicate the subject is lying. They are somewhat subjective and invasive.
In general, they are frowned upon in the employment setting. In most cases, federal law – Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) 29 USC §2001 et seq.; 29 CFR Part 801 – makes it clear that an employer may not force an employee to take a polygraph and an employee cannot be penalized or disciplined for refusing to take one.
There are exemptions to this Act. Federal, state and local governments are not affected by the law. In addition, the law does not apply to tests given by the federal government to private citizens who are involved in national security-related activities.
The Act also provides certain restrictions on giving the test to persons within the private sector. The test may be administered to employees of security service firms such as alarm companies, armored car drivers and the like. And, with certain restrictions, an employer can request a polygraph of an employee whom the employer reasonably suspects of involvement in an act of economic loss such as theft or embezzlement.
Even where polygraph testing is allowed, an employee has certain rights that he or she should be aware of. Among these rights are the right to have written notice of the request before testing, the right to refuse or discontinue a test once it has started, and the right to have the results not disclosed to unauthorized people. (29 USC §2001 et seq.; 29 CFR Part 801).
So What Happens to Me When I Refuse?
If you refuse to take the test, it is not considered to be misconduct unless the polygraph was part of the original hiring contract and you were aware of the requirement. If your employer asks you to take a polygraph after you have been hired, you must be made aware of the requirement. If you fail to protest the requirement at the time, you may be deemed to have consented to the polygraph.
Likewise, if you quit your job rather than submit to a polygraph request after the date of your hiring and of which you were not made aware, a later requirement becomes a change in your hiring agreement. Unemployment benefits are allowed. Oklahoma state law and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) conforms to federal law. (OESC precedent 81 AT 8229).
Do not let an employer’s request to have to take a polygraph stop you from filing for unemployment benefits. It is important that you protect your legal and financial rights. An experienced Oklahoma unemployment attorney can help you do exactly that.
In addition to protecting your rights to benefits, if an employer fires you wrongfully or retaliates against you for your rightful refusal to take a polygraph, you may have grounds bring a civil action against the employer. The monetary civil penalty against the employer was recently increased to $20,521. (29 USC §2001 et seq.; 29 CFR Part 801).
This can be a complicated area of the law. You may have questions about your particular situation and whether you were within your legal rights to refuse a polygraph. You may be entitled to unemployment benefits and may want to explore a legal action against your employer. An experienced employment attorney can help answer your questions.
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