Attorney believes legislation would enable productive use of polygraph testing

There is a proposal for a legislative framework to be set up governing the controversial use of  polygraph testing in Jamaican workplaces.

Attorney-at-law Gavin Goffe is proposing this approach to deal with some of  the issues that arise in using the measure. 

Polygraph testing results are not accepted as evidence in criminal cases, and are used in very limited circumstances in civil cases due to their vulnerability to manipulation.

But they are widely used for employment purposes, and also feature in disciplinary proceedings. 

One controversial aspect is when employers force employees to take them, and whether employees should sign contracts giving permission to be tested.

Goffe argues that, based on its usefulness and its limitations, legislation would enable more productive use of  polygraph testing.

“It would be a good idea to have a legal framework. I certainly don’t think polygraph testing is useless or that it doesn’t have a role to play. So even though the science is not where it ought to be in terms of certainty, I think it is useful and we don’t want to throw it out entirely.”

Goffe, who was a guest on Beyond the Headlines, adds that one area where legislation would be useful, is to deal with situations where persons are denied jobs because of  a refusal to take these tests.

“We know for instance that in other jurisductions such as the USA, you can’t get a job in the FBI or CIA unless you pass a polygraph test. So you may have a right if you were not going to be applying for a job in one of these sensitive areas. But even then, I don’t know where you’d ground that right because it’s not a constitutional right that you have and there’s nothing in our laws that seek to give any kind of protection where that is concerned.’

He also highlighted the flipside of  the controversy, where security concerns are raised and polygraph testing can address them.

“I think there needs to be a balance between the right to natural justice and the freedom of the employers and the clients they serve to be able to give that level of assurance,”he said. 


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