U.S. Code of Federal Regulations
Regulations most recently checked for updates: Dec 07, 2023
(a) Effective December 27, 1988, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 (EPPA or the Act) prohibits most private employers (Federal, State, and local government employers are exempted from the Act) from using any lie detector tests either for pre-employment screening or during the course of employment. Polygraph tests, but no other types of lie detector tests, are permitted under limited circumstances subject to certain restrictions. The purpose of this part is to set forth the regulations to carry out the provisions of EPPA.
(b) The regulations in this part are divided into six subparts. Subpart A contains the provisions generally applicable to covered employers, including the requirements relating to the prohibitions on lie detector use and the posting of notices. Subpart A also sets forth interpretations regarding the effect of section 10 of the Act on other laws or collective bargaining agreements. Subpart B sets forth rules regarding the statutory exemptions from application of the Act. Subpart C sets forth the restrictions on polygraph usage under such exemptions. Subpart D sets forth the recordkeeping requirements and the rules on the disclosure of polygraph test information. Subpart E deals with the authority of the Secretary of Labor and the enforcement provisions under the Act. Subpart F contains the procedures and rules of practice necessary for the administrative enforcement of the Act.
For purposes of this part:
(a) Act or EPPA means the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 (Pub. L. 100–347, 102 Stat. 646, 29 U.S.C. 2001–2009).
(b) (1) The term commerce has the meaning provided in section 3(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 203(b)). As so defined, commerce means trade, commerce, transportation, transmission, or communication among the several States or between any State and any place outside thereof.
(2) The term State means any of the fifty States and the District of Columbia and any Territory or possession of the United States.
(c) The term employer means any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee or prospective employee. A polygraph examiner either employed for or whose services are retained for the sole purpose of administering polygraph tests ordinarily would not be deemed an employer with respect to the examinees.
(d) (1) The term lie detector means a polygraph, deceptograph, voice stress analyzer, psychological stress evaluator, or any other similar device (whether mechanical or electrical) that is used, or the results of which are used, for the purpose of rendering a diagnostic opinion regarding the honesty or dishonesty of an individual. Voice stress analyzers, or psychological stress evaluators, include any systems that utilize voice stress analysis, whether or not an opinion on honesty or dishonesty is specifically rendered.
(2) The term lie detector does not include medical tests used to determine the presence or absence of controlled substances or alcohol in bodily fluids. Also not included in the definition of lie detector are written or oral tests commonly referred to as “honesty” or “paper and pencil” tests, machine-scored or otherwise; and graphology tests commonly referred to as handwriting tests.
(e) The term polygraph means an instrument that—
(1) Records continuously, visually, permanently, and simultaneously changes in cardiovascular, respiratory, and electrodermal patterns as minimum instrumentation standards; and
(2) Is used, or the results of which are used, for the purpose of rendering a diagnostic opinion regarding the honesty or dishonesty of an individual.
(f) The terms manufacture, dispense, distribute, and deliver have the meanings set forth in the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. 812.
(g) The term Secretary means the Secretary of Labor or authorized representative.
(h) Wage and Hour Division means the organizational unit of the Department of Labor to which is assigned primary responsibility for enforcement and administration of the Act.
(i) Administrator means the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, or authorized representative.
(a) The coverage of the Act extends to “any employer engaged in or affecting commerce or in the production of goods for commerce.” (Section 3 of EPPA; 29 U.S.C. 2002.) In interpreting the phrase “affecting commerce” in other statutes, courts have found coverage to be coextensive with the full scope of the Congressional power to regulate commerce. See, for example, Godwin v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, 540 F. 2d 1013, 1015 (9th Cir. 1976). Since most employers engage in one or more types of activities that would be regarded as “affecting commerce” under the principles established by a large body of court cases, virtually all employers are deemed subject to the provisions of the Act, unless otherwise exempt pursuant to section 7 (a), (b), or (c) of the Act and §§ 801.10 or 801.11 of this part.
(b) The Act also extends to all employees of covered employers regardless of their citizenship status, and to foreign corporations operating in the United States. Moreover, the provisions of the Act extend to any actions relating to the administration of lie detector, including polygraph, tests which occur within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, e.g., the preparation of paperwork by a foreign corporation in a Miami office relating to a polygraph test that is to be administered on the high seas or in some foreign location.
(a) Section 3 of EPPA provides that, unless otherwise exempt pursuant to section 7 of the Act and §§ 801.10 through 801.14 of this part, covered employers are prohibited from:
(1) Requiring, requesting, suggesting or causing, directly or indirectly, any employee or prospective employee to take or submit to a lie detector test;
(2) Using, accepting, or inquiring about the results of a lie detector test of any employee or prospective employee; and
(3) Discharging, disciplining, discriminating against, denying employment or promotion, or threatening any employee or prospective employee to take such action for refusal or failure to take or submit to such test, on the basis of the results of a test, for filing a complaint, for testifying in any proceeding, or for exercising any rights afforded by the Act.
(b) An employer who reports a theft or other incident involving economic loss to police or other law enforcement authorities is not engaged in conduct subject to the prohibitions under paragraph (a) of this section if, during the normal course of a subsequent investigation, such authorities deem it necessary to administer a polygraph test to an employee(s) suspected of involvement in the reported incident. Employers who cooperate with police authorities during the course of their investigations into criminal misconduct are likewise not deemed engaged in prohibitive conduct provided that such cooperation is passive in nature. For example, it is not uncommon for police authorities to request employees suspected of theft or criminal activity to submit to a polygraph test during the employee's tour of duty since, as a general rule, suspect employees are often difficult to locate away from their place of employment. Allowing a test on the employer's premises, releasing an employee during working hours to take a test at police headquarters, and other similar types of cooperation at the request of the police authorities would not be construed as “requiring, requesting, suggesting, or causing, directly or indirectly, any employee * * * to take or submit to a lie detector test.” Cooperation of this type must be distinguished from actual participation in the testing of employees suspected of wrongdoing, either through the administration of a test by the employer at the request or direction of police authorities, or through employer reimbursement of tests administered by police authorities to employees. In some communities, it may be a practice of police authorities to request employer testing of employees before a police investigation is initiated on a reported incident. In other communities, police examiners are available to employers, on a cost reimbursement basis, to conduct tests on employees suspected by an employer of wrongdoing. All such conduct on the part of employers is deemed within the Act's prohibitions.
(c) The receipt by an employer of information from a polygraph test administered by police authorities pursuant to an investigation is prohibited by section 3(2) of the Act. (See paragraph (a)(2) of this section.)
(d) The simulated use of a polygraph instrument so as to lead an individual to believe that an actual test is being or may be performed (e.g., to elicit confessions or admissions of guilt) constitutes conduct prohibited by paragraph (a) of this section. Such use includes the connection of an employee or prospective employee to the instrument without any intention of a diagnostic purpose, the placement of the instrument in a room used for interrogation unconnected to the employee or prospective employee, or the mere suggestion that the instrument may be used during the course of the interview.
(a) Section 10 of EPPA provides that the Act, except for subsections (a), (b), and (c) of section 7, does not preempt any provision of a State or local law, or any provision of a collective bargaining agreement, that prohibits lie detector tests or is more restrictive with respect to the use of lie detector tests.
(b)(1) This provision applies to all aspects of the use of lie detector tests, including procedural safeguards, the use of test results, the rights and remedies provided examinees, and the rights, remedies, and responsibilities of examiners and employers.
(2) For example, if the State prohibits the use of polygraphs in all private employment, polygraph examinations could not be conducted pursuant to the limited exemptions provided in section 7 (d), (e) or (f) of the Act; a collective bargaining agreement that provides greater protection to an examinee would apply in addition to the protection provided in the Act; or more stringent licensing or bonding requirements in a State law would apply in addition to the Federal bonding requirement.
(3) On the other hand, industry exemptions and applicable restrictions thereon, provided in EPPA, would preempt less restrictive exemptions established by State law for the same industry, e.g., random testing of current employees in the drug industry not prohibited by State law but limited by this Act to tests administered in connection with ongoing investigations.
(c) EPPA does not impede the ability of State and local governments to enforce existing statutes or to enact subsequent legislation restricting the use of lie detectors with respect to public employees.
(d) Nothing in section 10 of the Act restricts or prohibits the Federal Government from administering polygraph tests to its own employees or to experts, consultants, or employees of contractors, as provided in subsections 7(b) and 7(c) of the Act, and § 801.11 of this part.
Every employer subject to EPPA shall post and keep posted on its premises a notice explaining the Act, as prescribed by the Secretary. Such notice must be posted in a prominent and conspicuous place in every establishment of the employer where it can readily be observed by employees and applicants for employment. Copies of such notice may be obtained from local offices of the Wage and Hour Division.
(a) Pursuant to section 5 of the Act, the Secretary is authorized to:
(1) Issue such rules and regulations as may be necessary or appropriate to carry out the Act;
(2) Cooperate with regional, State, local, and other agencies, and cooperate with and furnish technical assistance to employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies to aid in effectuating the purposes of the Act; and
(3) Make investigations and inspections as necessary or appropriate, through complaint or otherwise, including inspection of such records (and copying or transcription thereof), questioning of such persons, and gathering such information as deemed necessary to determine compliance with the Act or these regulations; and
(4) Require the keeping of records necessary or appropriate for the administration of the Act.
(b) Section 5 of the Act also grants the Secretary authority to issue subpoenas requiring the attendance and testimony of witnesses or the production of any evidence in connection with any investigation or hearing under the Act. The Secretary may administer oaths, examine witnesses, and receive evidence. For the purpose of any investigation or hearing provided for in the Act, the authority contained in sections 9 and 10 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 49,50,relating,papers,and,shall.
(c) In case of disobedience to a subpoena, the Secretary may invoke the aid of a United States District Court which is authorized to issue an order requiring the person to obey such subpoena.
(d) Any person may report a violation of the Act or these regulations to the Secretary by advising any local office of the Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor, or any authorized representative of the Administrator. The office or person receiving such a report shall refer it to the appropriate office of the Wage and Hour Division for the region or area in which the reported violation is alleged to have occurred.
(e) The Secretary shall conduct investigations in a manner which, to the extent practicable, protects the confidentiality of any complainant or other party who provides information to the Secretary in good faith.
(f) It is a violation of these regulations for any person to resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, or interfere with any official of the Department of Labor assigned to perform an investigation, inspection, or law enforcement function pursuant to the Act during the performance of such duties.
(a) EPPA broadly defines “employer” to include “any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relationship to an employee or prospective employee” (EPPA section 2(2)).
(b) EPPA restrictions apply to State Employment Services, private employment placement agencies, job recruiting firms, and vocational trade schools with respect to persons who may be referred to potential employers. Such entities are not liable for EPPA violations, however, where the referrals are made to employers for whom no reason exists to know that the latter will perform polygraph testing of job applicants or otherwise violate the provisions of EPPA.
(c) EPPA prohibitions against discrimination apply to former employees of an employer. For example, an employee may quit rather than take a lie detector test. The employer cannot discriminate or threaten to discriminate in any manner against that person (such as by providing bad references in the future) because of that person's refusal to be tested, or because that person files a complaint, institutes a proceeding, testifies in a proceeding, or exercises any right under EPPA.