Acts of theft and fraud by employees is a very serious threat to the health of any business. The effects of shrinkage on the company’s bottom line aside, an office environment where fraud is taking place is often one where members of staff are pitted against their employer, with conspiracies and insubordination being common.
Fraud investigations include the use of several tools, including the well-known polygraph or lie detector test. This method of assessing the staff member’s honesty, which often features in films and TV shows, is often employed by investigators – but does it stand up in a court of law?
Using The Polygraph to Protect Your Business
Polygraph testing has often confirmed an employer’s suspicion that a member of staff is involved in illicit activities. However, the success of polygraph testing as evidence in court has been mixed.
In many cases, the labour court and CCMA have ruled that polygraph testing was not valid evidence. To understand why the courts ruled this way, it’s important to understand how the polygraph test is performed:
Ask Specific Questions
In order for the test to have credibility, the questions which are answered by the employee during the test have to be specific. By asking the employee questions that relate to the accusations that he or she is facing, the Polygraphist will be able to testify that the member of staff lied about committing fraud. If the questions are too vague or skirt around the issue, the court may rule that the test is not valid evidence because the main issue – the allegations of fraud – was not covered.
Obtain the Employee’s Permission
This is a crucial part of the polygraph testing process, and failing to obtain permission from the member of staff may result in a disappointing result in court. Before a member of staff takes the polygraph test, he or she must be informed exactly what the test involves, and why it is being used in the investigation. The staff member should also be informed about the legal implications of failing a polygraph test should the case go to court. Permission in writing is essential, and it is best to involve your company’s lawyer throughout the investigation.