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Friday, Feb 24, 2012 - Last Blog on Earth | News

Wiretap translators allege DEA administered illegal polygraphs

Workers say they were fired improperly after failing dubious lie-detector tests that included prep question about bestiality

By Dave Maass

Eight privately contracted translators who worked on criminal wiretap cases for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement are suing their employers for allegedly subjecting them to illegal polygraph tests that included questions about infidelity and bestiality.

Suing under their initials because they are forbidden from discussing their work with outsiders, the plaintiffs allege that Metropolitan Interpreters and Translators Inc., which operates under the name MetLang, essentially fired them after they supposedly failed flawed lie-detectors, received inconclusive results or outright refused to submit to them. In the brief filed on Feb. 23, San Diego civil-rights lawyers Eugene Iredale and Julia Yoo write that the tests violate the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA), which states that private-contractor employees may not be forced to undergo the tests.

"As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ actions, Plaintiffs were subjected to humiliation, fear, loss of income, loss of reputation, dissemination of defamatory information, loss of employment, and pain and suffering by the illegal acts of defendants and are entitled to attorney fees and punitive damages," the complaint states.

The polygraph testing began in July 2011 and continued through December 2011. Translators allege that MetroLang frequently changed the dates of the tests, "adding to the widespread anxiety that they could be terminated at any given moment." Some reported that the DEA employees who administered the tests asked personal questions, including whether one translator cheated on his partner and whether another "had engaged in sexual activity with animals" in a preparation question. These questions, the complaint states, specifically violated provisions under EPPA that forbid sexual questions in employee polygraph tests.

Download the complaint here.

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