The lie detector test is just part of the process and a way to remove the cloud of doubt that always follows a theft complaint.
This was originally planned as a 3 part series, but in the first part I mentioned in passing that we use lie detector tests in my business. I got a ton of questions emailed to me on the topic, so I decided to add a 4th part.
First, it is important to know this test is not the main tool we use in our theft process. In eight years we have been in this business we have only administered it a few times. We have an entire process to deal with theft complaints before it gets to this step. As such, I do not think it should be the focus of your theft process and should only be added as a final step. It is not the linchpin of the process. There are also real legal considerations that need to be taken into account.
It is important to understand the context in which we give the tests. From the day they are hired, our employees are informed of our entire theft process. We explain that we pay quite a lot of money, $400 per test, to have these tests administered—not because we think they took the item, but rather to give them the opportunity to prove that they did not take the item. We only give these tests as a last step after our entire process is followed (click the red button below for a download of that process) and only after a police report has been filed. We are always very supportive of the employee as they go into the test. It is important in our company that it is never seen as negative or a bad thing. The lie detector test is just part of the process and a way to remove the cloud of doubt that always follows a theft complaint. We actually added this test at the request of an employee who wanted to make sure everyone knew 100% that she was innocent of a theft complaint. If the test is seen as punishment or in a negative way, it can quickly spiral into how you do not trust your employees and can be caustic to your culture.
Lie detector tests are covered under federal law. You need to be aware of the law and follow all of its provisions. Among the most important is this form. You are required to give it to the employee, have them sign it, and keep it on file for 3 years. You should read this form and make sure you understand all of the regulations as well. One of the most important rules is there needs to be actual economic loss to the business. This cannot mean the loss of the customer. We only administer the test once we reach the point where we are going to pay the client for the missing items, so this is our loss. We also must have a reason to believe the employee may have taken the item. Our employee consent form was given to us by the company we use to administer the polygraph test. They use this form to advise us if we have legal cause to do the test.
I may also not be aware of the all the state laws in your area. While the polygraph has been a useful tool for us, before you consider implementing it you need to get advice from your employment law advisors, find a reputable test administrator, and discuss how to engage their services long before you ever need to administer a test. This is a process that should be well thought out ahead of time and not created in the heat of the moment when emotions are running high on all sides.
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Derek Christian has been involved in the cleaning industry for more than 20 years and is an owner or investor in several cleaning companies. Derek founded My Maid Service which was later merged into Blue Skies Services and now he works with Castle Keepers in various marketing and sales Capacities.