Supreme Court Rules Background Checks Appropriate for NASA Lab Workers

January 20, 2011

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Jan. 19 that background checks for government contract workers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory—including questions in the background checks about use of illegal drugs—do not violate the workers’ right to information privacy.

A group of 28 contract workers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, sued arguing the background checks violated their right to privacy. The contract workers were hired at a time before such background checks were required.

A presidential order later required the checks, and the workers were asked to undergo them. The workers then filed a lawsuit.

Some of the 28 employees had worked at the laboratory for decades and had not been subject to a background check, according to court documents. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is staffed exclusively by contract employees.

The Supreme Court decision in this case reverses a decision by the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.  

Filed by Staffing Industry Analysts, a sister company of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail


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