One Youth’s Stand Against ‘Terror San Antonio Father John A. Wagner, executive secretary of the Bishop’s Committee for the Spanish-Speaking and a columnist in the Alamo Messenger, the Catholic paper in San Antonio, wrote in a column titled, “Ban the ‘Lie’ Tests”: “Recently, a young man, 19 years of age, came to see me inquiring what could be done to prevent infringement upon one’s personal life by way of a lie detector test. Many corporations today do not hire a person unless he first submits to a lie detector test and then usually submits to one every six months during employment. “For a young man this lad had a lot of courage and spunk. He took the lie detector test and after he found out from the corporation that he passed and could be employed he refused the job on the grounds that he would not work for a ‘terror organization.’ “He maintained that his right to certain human prerogatives was more important than his making money for a corporation. But then a person must eat too and the day is upon us when one will either have to submit his inner thoughts for the record or else not work. . . . “Supposedly these lie detectors are used to prevent people from stealing. Let’s face it. This is a very useful device. With it you can screen out potential union supporters. You can even screen out any ambitious persons who might develop into a real successor to someone in low, middle, or top management positions.” 0 and they do not have enough evidence to prove he’s lying, “so there we can’t prove the accuracy of that particular test,” Albert said. “It’d be foolish to say a mistake never is made. There are.” But, said Albert, the tests are “so designed” that if an error is made, “the greatest margin of error” would be in the direction of “clearing an untruthful person.” Albert went on to assert that the DPS “gives conclusive opinions” in 95% of the test cases, and that in the other 5% “we can’t tell.” This 5%, he said, includes “alcoholics, winos, narcotics addicts, and the mentally deranged. Then there are a very few who are totally unemotional.” Thus Albert’s “95% conclusive” figure appears to refer to persons the examiners do not conclude are medically, physically, or mentally invalid subjects for the tests to work on. When he started, he said, the “inconclusive” percentage was 12 to 14%, but now the instruments are “more sensitive.” Berry, the sheriffs’ executive secretary, said rather heavily that “I support utilizing the polygraph machine strictly as an investigative tool. It does not take the place of skilled investigators.” “Polygraph tests are not reliable,” declared Lyman Jones, public relations director of Texas AFL-CIO, and “there is a great body of evidence” to this effect, he said. There is evidence that people who are convinced they are right in what they do or have certain other psychological characteristics do not indicate abnormal reactions on the polygraph, “And there is evidence,” he said, “that completely honest persons may, because of the psychological and physical makeup, ‘flunk’ polygraph tests. . . They flunk the innocent at least as often as they clear them; they pass the guilty at least as often as they find them out.” Price said “Nobody will tell you it’s 100% absolutely reliable, but it’s the same thing as psychology, which is not absolutely accurate,” nor is medicine, he said, but licenses are given to psychiatrists and physicians. “The whole point,” Price said, “is that this is a method and a process used in our society that has great weight and influence behind it.” Z ALE JEWELRY’S personnel director, Williams, said Zale’s has 409 stores, 106 of them in Texas, and 1,800 employees in Texas. A short man, rocking forward on his feet, he said smilingly, “Our merchandise is beautiful, desirable, and stealable, so we are much concerned that some of our people have not stolen from somebody.” Rep. Gene Hendryx of Alpine asked Williams grimly whether Zale’s requires employees to take lie tests on questions about their fellow employees. “Some type of situations . . . our examiner might conceivably ask if he has knowledge . . .” Williams replied. Hendryx asked if a person would be fired for refusing to answer such a question, and Williams said no. Under questions from Rep. John Traeger, Seguin, Williams admitted that Zale’s employees sign an agreement upon going to work that they will take lie tests if asked to. “If he will not sign it, then we may or may not hire him, based on other investigation,” Williams said. Well, asked Traeger, suppose three applicants would and one wouldn’t. “In all probabilityas a practical matter,” the one who wouldn’t would not be hired, Williams said. If something is stolen at a store, Traeger asked, does “everyone from manager to janitor” in a store have to take a test? Yes, “absolutely,” said Williams. He cited a case from Indianapolis, Indiana, where such a store-wide check cleared everybody. The test “is able to remove any question of integrity,” he said. Zales has hired people who won’t take the test, Williams said. “This is voluntary.” Rep. A. C. Atwood, Edinburg, said that in light of the agreement an employee has to sign, “It’s getting prettx close to being forced voluntary.” Well, said Williams, if someone says he won’t, “that tips us off, and our security investigator goes to work to find out why he won’t.” Pendleton wanted to know whyapart from having something to hidepeople refuse to take the tests? “Every executive has to take the test as an example,” Williams replied. “We just don’t have anybody who feels put upon. It’s a voluntary sort of thing, but they’re subject to it.” Price, augmenting his witness’ testimony, said to the committee, “They’re doing it now, so the question is whether we ought to have standards for doing it.” Albert, the DPS polygraph director, said, “One of the most basic requirements of a good examiner is that he approach every examination with a completely open mind. If he ever loses that position, he’s no good; he’s going to hurt somebody. He’s going to cause someone to get fired or go to jail.” If a commercial person wouldn’t hire or fired a man because he wouldn’t take the test, “I would say he’s derelict in his duty.” Albert reasoned that in criminal cases you do not assume a man is guilty until he is proven guilty. Berry, for the sheriffs, thought it was OK for businesses to give employees the tests. “They don’t have to pay any more attention to the results of this test than they do to character references. They don’t have to do it,” he said. Labor supported licensing polygraph examiners, but, said Jones, “The results of a polygraph test should not be a condition of employment in Texaseither a condition of being hired in the first place or being continued in such a job. Increasingly, it is such a condition.” Refusal to submit to a test should not be grounds for refusing or continuing employment, but increasingly, he said, it is. “A woman worker in an East Texas plant was told by her employer,” Jones said, “that she must take a lie detector test \(because some pilfering of company agreed and ‘passed’ the test. . . . A few weeks later, she was again summoned by her employer and told she must take another testthis time to ‘ be questioned about what she knew, if anything, about the conduct of her fellow employees. She refused, as I would have and as I imagine many people here would. She was fired because she would not submit to the second test and has been held disqualified for unemployment compensationa decision which is now on its way to a district court.” Hundreds of cases come to his attention, Jones said, in which the polygraph is used for “the unwarranted invasion of personal rights.” Five states have, in the course of licensing operators, safeguarded the rights of individuals by prohibiting employers from making the refusal to take such a test a condition of hiring or continued employment, he said. R. B. Rylander, who has five food stores, said he’s been using the tests about five years. “We use it more or less as a preventative measure,” he said. “You put people on notice we expect ’em to be honest. Psy May 14, 1965 5
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