Court OKs Settlement of Suit Over Polygraph Tests

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A San Francisco Superior Court judge Friday approved settlement of a statewide lawsuit against Crazy Shirts, a Tustin-based chain of T-shirt stores accused of illegally requiring store management applicants to take lie detector tests.

Jocelyn D. Larkin, who represented the plaintiffs in the class-action suit filed last year, said that under the settlement, Crazy Shirts employees and job applicants who were required to take polygraph tests will be awarded damages ranging from $800 to $7,000 each. About 30 to 40 people are affected, she said.

In addition, she said, Crazy Shirts is prohibited from asking or requiring employees or applicants to take lie detector tests for the next three years.

Under California law, employers cannot require that workers take a lie detector test as a condition of being hired or keeping their jobs. Larkin said that although an employer can request an employee to take a polygraph test, it is illegal for him to take adverse action against someone who refuses.

Crazy Shirts, operated by the Mainland Co., has 17 stores scattered throughout California, including outlets in Laguna Beach, Santa Ana, Newport Beach and Long Beach.

Mainland Co. President Steve Moder on Friday denied that the company had done anything illegal in using polygraph testing. He said "nobody was ever turned down" for employment or a raise for not taking the test.

Moder said that although the company agreed to pay damages, "basically there was no admission of guilt. It was just to get the thing settled."

However, Larkin said her client, David DeFelice of San Francisco, claims that in April, 1988--a month after he was hired as a salesman--he was told by company managers that he would not be promoted unless he took a lie detector test. DeFelice refused. As a result, he said, he was told he would never be promoted.

After filing the lawsuit, DeFelice was so harassed by management, Larkin said, that he quit his job at Crazy Shirts. Larkin said that in recognition of DeFelice's "trouble in taking on the case," he was awarded $25,000 by the court.

Anyone who took a polygraph in an attempt to gain employment or a promotion at Crazy Shirts will get $800, she said. Those who failed the test and thus were denied a job will receive $5,000 and those who refused to take it will get $7,500, she added.

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