Florida Congressman Dennis Ross Seeks Radical Amendment to Employee Polygraph Protection Act

On Monday, 8 June 2015, U.S. Representative Dennis A. Ross (R-FL) held a press conference with Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd to promote a proposed amendment of the 1988 Employee Polygraph Protection Act “to provide an exemption from the protections of that Act with regard to certain prospective employees whose job would include caring for or interacting with children.”

If passed, the bill, dubbed the “Protect Our Children Act,” would allow for compulsory pre-employment polygraph screening of school employees from teachers to janitors, employees of theme parks, zoos, swimming pools, day care centers, churches, and so forth. Specifically, Ross’ bill provides in relevant part:

`(g) Exemption for Certain Employers of Employees Who Care for or 
Interact With Unsupervised Children.--
            ``(1) Exemption.--Subject to paragraph (2) and subsection 
        (c) of section 8, this Act shall not prohibit the use of a 
        polygraph test by any employer if the test is administered to a 
        prospective employee--
                    ``(A) whose activities would involve the care or 
                supervision of children or regular access to children 
                who are cared for or supervised by another employee;
                    ``(B) whose job description indicates a high 
                probability that the prospective employee will interact 
                with unsupervised children on a frequent basis; or
                    ``(C) where the employer reasonably believes there 
                is a high probability of unsupervised interaction 
                between the prospective employee and a child on a more 
                than incidental basis.

Subparagraph (g)(1)(c) is so broadly worded that many jobs not currently envisaged might be construed to fall under it. But even if the legislation were more strictly worded, it is a bad idea that will not protect children. There is broad consensus amongst scientists that polygraph “testing” has no scientific basis. As retired FBI scientist and supervisory special agent Dr. Drew Richardson has observed, polygraph operators are involved in the detection of deception “to the extent that one who jumps from a tall building is involved in flying.”

Passage of Ross’ proposed amendment to the EPPA will predictably result in many innocent job applicants being falsely branded as liars, even as pedophiles seeking access to children pass the polygraph using simple countermeasures that polygraph operators cannot detect.

Conducting polygraph screening “for the children” doesn’t bestow any validity on this pseudoscientific methodology. Politicians who truly care about protecting children should eschew the sort of magical thinking associated with polygraphy and reject this bill. Rep. Ross’ bill currently has no co-sponsors.

DEA to Pay $500,000 to Settle Polygraph Lawsuit

dea-sealMcClatchy investigative reporter Marisa Taylor reports that the Drug Enforcement Agency has agreed to pay 14 contract translators $500,000 to settle a lawsuit brought under the 1988 Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA).

While the EPPA includes exemptions that allow individuals under contract to the FBI, NSA, DIA, and CIA, among others, to be polygraphed, no such exemption exists for DEA contractors.

The translators also filed suit against their direct employer, Metropolitan Interpreters and Translators, Inc., and that legal action remains ongoing with respect to nine plaintiffs. An April 2012 statement of claim in that litigation may be downloaded here. One translator’s polygrapher asked her “if she had engaged in sexual activity with animals” and another’s polygraph examination “included a question regarding his sexual conduct and whether he cheated on his partner.”

DEA Contractor Sued for Violation of the Employee Polygraph Protection Act

San Diego City Beat staff writer David Maass reports on the case of 10 translators formerly employed by Metropolitan Interpreters and Translators, a company that provides services to the Drug Enforcement Agency among other federal agencies. The translators were terminated for either failing, having inconclusive results on, or refusing to submit to, polygraph interrogations conducted by DEA polygraph operators. In a federal lawsuit, attorneys for the translators allege (convincingly, in AntiPolygraph.org’s view), that Metropolitan violated the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, which severely restricts the use of polygraphs by private companies. The DEA itself and individual DEA employees may eventually be added to the list of defendants in this case.

Scott Lilienfeld on Polygraphy

Emory University professor of psychology Scott Lilienfeld, who pens  Psychology Today’s The Skeptical Psychologist blog, lambastes polygraphy (and the U.S. government’s continued reliance on this pseudoscience)  in an article titled, “The Polygraph Strikes–and Strikes Out–Again.”