Sergeant Has No Constitutional Right To Be Given A Polygraph

George Emigh was employed as a sergeant by the Pennsylvania State Police. Emigh was the subject of a sexual misconduct complaint filed by a judge alleging that he engaged in inappropriate conduct towards her during a private party. The Department sustained some of the charges against him, and informed Emigh that he had the right to have his case heard by an arbitrator or by a court marshal. Emigh chose to have his case heard by an arbitrator, and requested the opportunity to submit to a polygraph examination. The Department denied the request for the polygraph.

Later, Emigh’s labor organization, the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, agreed with the State Police to reduce Emigh’s suspension from 35 to 14 days. Emigh retired, and filed a lawsuit against the State Police.

One of Emigh’s claims was that he had a due process right to insist upon a polygraph examination. A federal court found otherwise, and rejected Emigh’s claim. The Court found that an employer’s obligation to accord discipline using procedural due process only required that an employee receive notice and an opportunity for a hearing. The Court found that “the Constitution provides no right to submit to a polygraph examination in the instance of an unfavorable employment action. Emigh is merely entitled to oral or written notice of the charges against him, an explanation of the employer’s evidence, and an opportunity to present his side of the story. The notice given to Emigh about the disciplinary action and the arbitration procedures available to him afforded him adequate due process of law.”

Emigh v. Steffee, 2009 WL 1472916 (W.D. Pa. 2009).

This article appears in the August 2009 issue