Are Polygraph Exam Results Used by Employers to Discriminate Against New Hires?


Polygraph exams have long been utilized by employers as a tool in the hiring process to assess the credibility and honesty of job applicants. However, the use of polygraph exams has raised concerns regarding discrimination and fairness. This blog aims to explore the potential for discrimination in the context of polygraph exam results and shed light on the need for alternative methods of assessing job candidates.

The Role of Polygraph Exams in Hiring Processes

In certain industries and job roles such as law enforcement, national security, and positions involving high levels of trust, polygraph exams are commonly used. Employers resort to polygraph exams to minimize the risk of hiring individuals who may pose a threat to the organization or have a history of dishonesty. These exams are believed to provide insights into a candidate’s truthfulness and reliability.

Legal Framework and Regulations Regarding Polygraph Exams

To address concerns related to the use of polygraph exams, several countries, including the United States, have established regulations governing their use in employment settings. The Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) in the U.S. sets specific guidelines for employers, limiting the use of polygraph exams and protecting the rights of job applicants. Similar regulations exist in other jurisdictions to safeguard the interests of employees.

Potential for Discrimination in Polygraph Exam Results

Polygraph exams have inherent limitations and inaccuracies, which can lead to potential biases and subjective interpretations of the results. The interpretation of physiological responses, such as changes in heart rate or perspiration, relies on the examiner’s judgment, opening the door for subjective biases. Moreover, certain demographic groups may be disproportionately affected by the polygraph exam, leading to potential discrimination against job applicants.

Criticisms and Challenges to the Use of Polygraph Exams

Critics have raised ethical concerns regarding the invasion of privacy that polygraph exams entail. The reliance on physiological responses as indicators of truthfulness raises questions about the reliability of these exams. Scientific skepticism persists regarding the accuracy of polygraph exams, as they can be influenced by various psychological and physiological factors, including anxiety or physical conditions. These concerns challenge the validity and fairness of using polygraph exams as a decisive factor in employment decisions.

Alternatives to Polygraph Exams in Employment Settings

As awareness of the limitations and potential discriminatory impact of polygraph exams grows, employers are encouraged to explore alternative methods for assessing job candidates. Behavioral-based interviews and situational judgment tests provide valuable insights into a candidate’s behavior, decision-making abilities, and problem-solving skills. Psychometric assessments and personality inventories offer objective measures of job-related traits. Additionally, background checks and reference checks can provide valuable information about a candidate’s history and reputation.

Best Practices for Employers Regarding Polygraph Exams

To ensure fair and unbiased hiring practices, employers must adhere to legal regulations and compliance requirements pertaining to polygraph exams. Education and training should be provided to decision-makers to raise awareness about the limitations and potential biases associated with polygraph exams. Employers must also actively explore alternative assessment methods and employ a holistic approach that considers multiple factors when evaluating job candidates.

Case Studies and Examples

Instances where polygraph exams have been used in discriminatory ways have come to light. Lawsuits and legal actions related to the use of polygraph exams highlight the potential risks and consequences for employers who fail to employ fair and non-discriminatory practices. These cases emphasize the importance of critically examining the role of polygraph exams in employment settings and implementing more inclusive and equitable hiring practices.

Impact on Job Applicants and Their Rights

The use of polygraph exams can have significant psychological and emotional implications for job applicants. The invasive nature of these exams and the potential for adverse consequences, such as being wrongly labeled as deceptive, can impact an applicant’s self-esteem and future job prospects. Applicants who believe they have faced discrimination based on polygraph exam results may have legal recourse to protect their rights and seek justice.

Future Trends and Developments in Employment Screening

Advancements in technology offer promising alternatives to polygraph exams. Emerging tools and techniques, such as AI-based algorithms for behavior analysis and integrity testing, may provide more objective and reliable methods of assessing job candidates. Moreover, shifting public opinion and potential legislative changes may prompt employers to reevaluate the role of polygraph exams in their hiring processes.


While polygraph exams have been used in employment settings to evaluate the credibility and honesty of job applicants, their potential for discrimination and the presence of alternative assessment methods necessitate a thorough reevaluation. Employers should critically assess the limitations and potential biases associated with polygraph exams and actively explore alternative approaches that promote fairness, inclusivity, and accuracy in the hiring process. By adopting such practices, employers can create a more equitable and reliable system for selecting the most qualified candidates for their organizations.