Polygraph Tests: What Labor Arbitrators Need to Know - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 41, No. 1
James B. Dworkin
Michael M. Harris
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Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
Even the most avid readers of The Arbitration Journal may not recall the last time that the journal featured an article on the use of lie detectors in the labor relations arena. It has been more than 20 years since Lee M. Burkey concluded that
The scientific unreliability of Ihe polygraph upon which courts and arbitrators have ruled seems to stem from three problems. First, the machine's operation and interpretation depend wholly upon the skill of the operator and upon esoteric knowledge that not only defies cross-examination but also entourages the charlatan. . . . Second, the emotional state of a sensitive person may render the tests less accurate or, in some instances, useless. Third, the machine itself is not free from error
In a more recent and extremely comprehensive article, Edgar A. Jones, Jr., came to the same conclusions noted above:
In summary, the conclusion is compelling that no matter how well qualified educationally and experientially may be the polygraphist, the results of the lie-detector tests should routinely be ruled inadmissible. . . . First, faith in the technology of the polygraph as a "lie-detector" is misplaced because inherent human limitations on the powers to perceive, store, recall, and recount events effectively frustrate the prospects of any kind of real "lie detection," be it human or mechanical.
Second, although with relatively rare exceptions arbitrators and courts continue to reject polygraph proof, polygraph operators have been improperly allowed by some courts and arbitrators to preempt a central aspect of the act of judgment by triers of fact—the relalive assessment of the festimonial credit of witnesses—by unwarranted acts of self-abnegation on the part of those courts and arbitrators who have admitted polygraph test results to evidence and credited them with probative value.
Third, those acts of self-abnegation are unwarranted because even the best of polygraph operators (who see 80 percent of their peers to be a sorry lot) are not educationally or experientially nearly so well equipped as are professional triers of fact to distinguisb deception from truthfulness, and to protect the innocent in the process.
Given these conclusions, arbitration texts have tended to brush over lightly the issue of polygraph testing. For example, Frank Elkouri and Edna