Review Sought of Ruling on Background Checks at JPL

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The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama asked the U.S. Supreme Court in November to review an appeals court ruling blocking mandatory background checks of employees at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., arguing it could limit the government’s ability to conduct background checks on contract employees.

In June, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld its previous ruling of Jan. 11, 2008, which granted JPL employees a federal injunction allowing them to keep their jobs despite refusing to submit to background checks, according to information available on the U.S. Solicitor General’s Web site.

The injunction, which listed 28 JPL employees as plaintiffs, applied to all of JPL’s more than 4,000 contract workers.

The employees originally filed their case in U.S. District Court in August 2007, but their request for an injunction was denied.

NASA implemented tougher background checks in accordance with an August 2004 executive order by then-President George W. Bush to create secure and reliable forms of identification for all federal employees following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The solicitor general’s request, known as a petition for a writ of certiorari, asks the high court to consider whether the government is violating constitutional privacy rights when it asks, in the course of a background check, if contract employees received counseling or treatment for illegal drug use within the prior year.