Under Rhode Island law (RI Gen. Laws Sec. 28-6.1-1et seq.), it is illegal for an employer to request or require that an employee or prospective employee submit to a lie detector test. A "lie detector test" is any test utilizing a polygraph or any other device or written exam that is operated by or the results are used or interpreted by an examiner to detect deception, truthfulness, or the rendering of a diagnostic opinion regarding the honesty of a person. The law applies to all employers except law enforcement agencies acting in the performance of their official duties.
Exception for written tests. Written tests designed to uncover deception or verify truthfulness are permitted, but the results may not be used to form the primary basis for an employment decision.
The law is designed to eliminate polygraphs (lie detector tests) from the workplace while still allowing employers to use written examinations as a perceived cost-effective tool for ensuring a reliable workforce. At the same time, in allowing the use of written examinations, employers are warned not to rely inordinately on written examinations in making decisions regarding an employee's or an applicant's status. Employers are prohibited from requesting, requiring, or subjecting an employee to a polygraph examination in connection with a pending allegation and subsequent investigation.
Violators are guilty of a misdemeanor and are subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 and may be sued for damages and legal expenses by the person who was required or requested to take the test. In addition, it is not a valid defense that the test was administered outside of Rhode Island's border for employment within Rhode Island.