McClatchy reporter Marisa Taylor reports that a federal judge has found Metropolitan Interpreters and Translators liable for violation of the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, which restricts the use of polygraphs and other purported “lie detectors” by non-governmental employers. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON — At the behest of the Drug Enforcement Administration, a leading court translation service forced its employees to take lie-detector tests in violation of federal law, a federal judge has found.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller concluded that the New York-based company, Metropolitan Interpreters and Translators Inc., was liable for requiring nine translators in San Diego to take what they described as highly invasive polygraph tests to keep their jobs as contractors with the DEA.
The ruling paves the way for a trial in which a jury will determine how much the company will have to pay in damages. Miller also found the company’s vice president, Joseph Citrano, liable. Five other translators already have settled with the company.
The decision, which was issued Oct. 24, comes after the DEA agreed to pay the 14 plaintiffs a total of $500,000 to settle the lawsuit. The contract employees translated Spanish conversations collected during court-authorized wiretapping of the DEA’s criminal suspects. Metropolitan fired the employees after they failed or refused to take the polygraphs.
A 1988 law banned most private employers from polygraphing their workers because of scientific questions about the technique’s reliability and after accounts of employer abuses.
“This ruling shows companies are responsible for their own actions when they violate the law,” said San Diego lawyer Gene Iredale, who represented the plaintiffs. “It also shows courts are ready, willing and able to enforce this law.”
The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 still allowed the federal government to polygraph its employees and applicants. It also lists certain intelligence and law enforcement agencies as permitted to test their contractors. However, it does not list the DEA.