Lie-Detector Tests and Employment (WA State)

Lie-Detector Tests and Employment (WA State)

Under Washington State laws, may a person, firm, corporation or the state of Washington (including its political subdivisions or municipal corporations) require employees or prospective employees to take or be subjected to lie detectors or similar tests as a condition of employment or continued employment? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


Advertisement


WASHINGTON STATE: THE LIE-DETECTOR LAW

Under Washington State law, it's "unlawful for any person, firm, corporation or the state of Washington, its political subdivisions or municipal corporations to require, directly or indirectly, that any employee or prospective employee take or be subjected to any lie detector or similar tests as a condition of employment or continued employment[.]" RCW 49.44.120 (hereinafter, "Lie-Detector Law" or "Law") (hyperlinks added). However, there are several limitations:

LIMITATION #1:  The Lie-Detector Law does not "apply to persons making application for employment with any law enforcement agency or with the juvenile court services agency of any county, or to persons returning after a break of more than twenty-four consecutive months in service as a fully commissioned law enforcement officer[.]" Id. 

LIMITATION #2:  The Law does "not apply to either the initial application for employment or continued employment of persons who manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled substances as defined in chapter 69.50 RCW, or to persons in sensitive positions directly involving national security." RCW 49.44.120.

LIMITATION #3:  Nothing in the Law can "be construed to prohibit the use of psychological tests as defined in RCW 18.83.010." RCW 49.44.120(2).

LIMITATION #4:  Nothing in the Law "may be construed as limiting any statutory or common law rights of any person illegally denied employment or continued employment under this section for purposes of any civil action or injunctive relief." RCW 49.44.120(5).

It's important to note that the Lie-Detector Law defines person to include "any individual, firm, corporation, or agency or political subdivision of the state." RCW 49.44.120. And violations can lead to civil liability as well as criminal culpability.

CIVIL LIABILITY: REMEDIES

For civil actions based on violations of  RCW 49.44.120, "the court may:

(1) Award a penalty in the amount of five hundred dollars to a prevailing employee or prospective employee in addition to any award of actual damages;

(2) Award reasonable attorneys' fees and costs to the prevailing employee or prospective employee; and

(3) Pursuant to RCW 4.84.185, award any prevailing party against whom an action has been brought for a violation of RCW 49.44.120 reasonable expenses and attorneys' fees upon final judgment and written findings by the trial judge that the action was frivolous and advanced without reasonable cause.

RCW 49.44.135.

CRIMINAL CULPABILITY

In addition to civil liability, persons violating the Lie-Detector Law are also guilty of a misdemeanor. RCW 49.44.120(3).

CONCLUSION

Washington State's Lie-Detector Law protects both employees and prospective employees from invasive lie-detector tests used as a condition of employment or continued employment; however, there are several reasonable limitations. 

Ultimately, violations of the Law can lead to both civil liability and criminal culpability. However, civil litigants should note that the court may award a prevailing defendant "reasonable expenses and attorneys' fees upon final judgment and written findings by the trial judge that the action was frivolous and advanced without reasonable cause." Proceed with caution.

LEARN MORE

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Employment Discrimination Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group; please see our DISCLAIMER.

–gw

Popular Posts