Indiana Fire Department Suspends Polygraph Requirement

Michigan City, Indiana has decided to suspend its use of a polygraph as part of its entry-level hiring process. Last month, two unsuccessful candidates, Tyler J. Long and Mikhail Palmer, filed suit claiming that the city violated state and local law by using the polygraph.

According to the Michigan City News Dispatch, the city couples the polygraph with the administration of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory test (MMPI-2). The MMPI-2 is required for all new firefighters in Indiana by state law.

According to the lawsuit “To date, 100 percent of all firefighter candidates subjected to the (Michigan City Fire Pension Board’s) illegal MMPI-2 examination requirements have failed their individual examinations.” The News Dispatch reports that all seven firefighter candidates who were given conditional offers of employment with the department have failed it.

The suit was filed in La Porte County Circuit Court naming the city of Michigan City, the Michigan City Fire Pension Board and the Michigan City Fire Merit Commission. It seeks an injunction against the continued use of the test. A ruling is expected shortly.

The Michigan City Common Council voted last night 8-1 to fund additional testing for new candidates without the polygraph. The lone dissenting vote, Councilman Chris Schwanke, reportedly told the News Dispatch that he disagreed with continuing the testing procedures without the polygraph, and raised questions about the fairness of changing a test after so many candidates had failed it.

More on the story.

More on the filing of the suit.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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