Issue in dispute

When, if ever, can an employer have regard to polygraph tests when determining the suitability of a candidate for promotion?

Court's decision

In the case of Sedibeng District Municipality v South African Local Government Bargaining Council and Others 2013 (1) SA 395 (LC) the employer used polygraph testing as a means of assessing whether employees should be promoted. The Labour Court was asked whether this was fair practice in regard to two prospective candidates, who were declined promotion because they failed the polygraph tests. While polygraph tests are often utilized in disciplinary enquiries their evidentiary value is approached with caution given their questionable reliability and accuracy. The Court found that in the instance where an employer utilizes the polygraph results, exclusively, without regard to other independent information, in order to eliminate candidates for promotion based on their alleged deceitful character it acted unfairly as it brought the employee's integrity into question on tenuous grounds. The court found that for the same reasons polygraph tests cannot be decisive in disciplinary cases they cannot be decisive in the promotion of employees.

Importance

It therefore appears that a polygraph test may not be utilized exclusively in determining the suitability or otherwise of a candidate for promotion unless=the test is considered in conjunction with other factors.