Tyrone Reid, Sunday Gleaner Reporter
SENIOR OFFICIALS of the Ministry of Labour have launched an investigation into claims that Bert's Auto Parts Limited has forced some of its employees to take polygraph tests or face dismissal.
A spokesperson for the Pay and Conditions of Employment Branch at the labour ministry told our news team that the ministry had been receiving several calls for more than two weeks as disgruntled staff members protested against management's decision to subject them to lie-detector tests.
"The ministry is investigating the matter (but) we haven't been able to speak with management," the spokesperson said.
"When we call, everybody seems to be in a meeting ... . We sent officers over there last week to speak to them (but) they said sorry, bad day (because) they are in a meeting.
"We scheduled an appointment for today at 10 a.m. for them to come in and speak to us (but) they called yesterday and said that they are unavailable and can't make it and that they will get back to us shortly," the spokesperson told The Sunday Gleaner on Thursday.
Deadline to come in
The ministry is giving the management of Bert's Auto until next week to come in for a meeting to settle the matter.
When contacted, Bert Tomlinson, owner of Bert's Auto Parts Limited, told The Sunday Gleaner that the electronic memo announcing the schedule for the polygraph tests had been withdrawn.
"We withdrew that memo ... . That is no longer an issue," Tomlinson said.
When asked why the document was issued in the first place and if any employee had yet been subjected to the test, Tomlinson said he had no comment, before quickly ending the conversation.
"Have a good day," Tomlinson said before hanging up. When our news team called back shortly afterwards, an employee said Tomlinson was in a meeting.
Contents of email
The Sunday Gleaner later received a copy of the email issued to staff members of Bert's Auto Parts Limited by the management.
The document, captioned 'Polygraph testing', made it clear that failing to turn up at the time stipulated for the test would result in certain dismissal.
"Further, please ensure that it is very clear to all persons that anyone who fails to attend will, by their action, forfeit their employment with Bert's Auto Parts," read a section of the memo.
An employee of the company told The Sunday Gleaner that at least one staff member was forced to take the lie-detector test on Saturday, June 19.
The staff member was also peeved at the fact that there appeared to be some level of discrimination in the administration of the test, as only line staff were being polygraphed.
In the meantime, noted attorney-at-law, Bert Samuels, is of the opinion that if an employer forces an employee to take a lie-detector test, it would constitute a breach of the individual's constitutional rights.
"It is my view that where an employer forces an employee or seeks to force an employee to take a polygraph test, that is unlawful," Samuels said.