Can’t find a job after refusing polygraph test
Still searching for justice: Dismissed GEA employee Vernon James
Still searching for justice: Dismissed GEA employee Vernon James

By Shauna Jemmott

A FORMER employee of the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), who was among those who dismissed after failing a polygraph test in 2013, has launched a campaign against his sacking, which he has deemed arbitrary and unjust.

Vernon James said on Monday that ever since he was fired in March 2013 after failing the test, he has searched tirelessly for another job, but is being stigmatised and discriminated against day after day. The dismissed fuel inspector who was functioning in a senior position at the Linden checkpoint made an emotional presentation on Monday at the Public Service Commission (PSC) Commission of Inquiry (CoI), which was launched by government earlier this year.

James told Chairman Harold Lutchman and Commissioners Sandra Jones and Samuel Goolsarran that his testimony also represents colleagues who are either afraid or too shy to come forward, many of whom still suffer as a result of their dismissal. Reports indicated that the workers, specifically fuel inspectors and other field staff, were dismissed following a lie detector test, but James said he was told by management of GEA that he was being dismissed as a result of refusing to take the Polygraph or lie detector test, although he was told it was ‘voluntary’.

The man said his dismissal is arbitrary, since the document which was given to him by GEA head Mahender Sharma stated that taking the test was voluntary. In 2003, he was employed under the Biocode firm with its main offices in London, and worked ten years with the GEA, until he was dismissed in 2013.

He said the polygraph testing was introduced to the company in 2009, and was taken by a former colleague who was then dismissed. The following year it was widely introduced in the agency, but without management even informing the staff of their decision concerning polygraph testing. When he was called in to accompany specific staff to the Office of the President (OP), he was not even aware that he was also summoned to an impromptu meeting in which then Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, told them they will take the lie detector test the following day.
Not knowing much about the test, he contacted a relative in the USA, who advised him to speak to a lawyer. The lawyer then cautioned him that the company would have fired him based on observed trends. When he reported the following day for the test, he was hoarse, and after learning that he could not do the test in such condition, he was also informed by the tester, who was said to be a specialist from the USA, that he did not even have to do it at all, since it was voluntary.
He said he asked the man if he would be the first to see the results had he decided to take the test, and was told that the results would be handed to Dr. Luncheon, then to the GEA. He declined to take the test. He said he was asked again once by Sharma to take the test, and he refused, saying, “If I have not volunteered to do it, why should I do it? You (Sharma), Dr. Luncheon, the President of this country, the Prime Minister (or) no one (else) can make me do this test if I choose not to volunteer.”

According to James, after his contract ended in 2012 he was asked to sign another contract in January, but in March he was called to the office of Sharma for an interview, and was told by the CEO that his services were terminated because he had refused to take the polygraph test twice. “From 2013 to now, I am unemployed…because when you apply for employment elsewhere you’re turned down,” James said.
He said a colleague gained employment at Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), and was dismissed without proper explanation. Another, a young lady, was employed by a private university on ECD, and an executive member of GEA who visited saw her working there. She was soon after dismissed.

“Sir, I am asking this commission if this commission could look into the matter and see how well it can use its office to help those who are out of a job today, either (by) being reinstated into their jobs or by seeking employment (for them) elsewhere. I am out of a job for over two years and I ought to be compensated for the time I’m out of my job, because it is not legal for anyone to be dismissed because of a polygraph test. It’s unconstitutional and they violated my democratic rights as a Guyanese!” the man stated.

Scroll to Top
All our printed editions are available online
Subscribe to the Guyana Chronicle.
Sign up to receive news and updates.
We respect your privacy.