Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

MDV - Beware of the Employee Polygraph Protection Act - $4 Million Reasons Why


Now that WMD (weapons of mass destruction) has become a common conversational term, at least in some circles, hopefully MDV will not. I use MDV as shorthand for a million dollar verdict in an employment case. Verdict is an important part of the phrase, because that reflects the jury award unhampered by caps or further judicial action, both of which frequently come into play. The raw award however is important, not only because it is what hits the headlines, but as a measure of a how incensed jurors can be at an action that generally does not involve physical harm. The latest case in point involves a statute that rarely makes it as far as litigation, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act.

For those who have not dealt with it, the EPPA prohibits the use of lie detectors in the workplace except in very narrow, quite proscribed circumstances. A Philadelphia area employer obviously thought it could wend its way through that thicket when it fired 3 employees who refused to take a lie detector test after money went missing from the premises of the company. The Philadelphia Inquirer headlined the story in Sunday's paper, A.C. firm must pay fired trio $4 million. Ironically, the stolen money (approximately $4,000) belonged to a fellow employee not the company. And for those trial lawyers who think that a prior conviction on an unrelated crime will be devastating to a plaintiff, one of the three here, was actually in prison at the time of the trial. Go figure, and be wary of giving lie detector tests.

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