Law enforcemenf agencies have long been users of the polygraph in their investigations, although the courts generally have prohibited the introduction of polygraph results into evidence. In recent decades, polygraph testing for employment-related purposes has gained widespread acceptance among security-conscious employers. Naturally, nonunion employers generally are free to use polygraph results as they see fit. In the
unionized employment sector, however, employee discipline and discharge actions based on polygraph results can be challenged in arbitration.
Unlike judges in court proceedings, arbitrators are allowed to use their best judgment in determining the admissibility of polygraphs as evidentiary
material. They have considerable freedom in dealing with these cases, since they are not bound by court precedents or formal rules of evidence. Arbitrators may choose to deny the admission of the polygraph results as evidence or to admit the lie detector results on a "for what it's worth" basis.
This study examines two important questions: (1) how have arbitrators dealt with the admissibility of polygraph analyses from 1958 to 1984 and (2) have polygraph analyses been handled in the same manner as other coercive and controversial types of evidence? The rationales developed by arbitrators to explain admissibility and inadmissibility of questionable evidence are also investigated. Seventy-three cases dealing with controversial
evidence have been reported in Labor Arbitration Reports and Labor Arbitration Awards during the 1958-1984 period. An in-depth look into these cases reveals the current trends in this area. In particular, an examination of these cases permits an assessment of the recent claim that lie detector evidence is almost always rejected as a basis for decision.