No, this is not – for those of you old enough to remember I Dream Of Jeannie – Major Anthony Nelson suing NASA after all these years. Instead, a group of Caltech employees assigned to work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (“JPL”) in California sued NASA when the federal agency insisted that they submit to background checks after, in many cases, having worked there for 20+ years or resign their employment. The Supreme Court will address the question whether NASA violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional right to informational privacy by (1) requiring the contract employee to answer whether he or she had received counseling or treatment for illegal drug use in the prior year and/or (2) asking the contract employees’ designated references for any adverse information bearing on their suitability to work at a federal facility.
The case is before the Supreme Court on NASA’s petition for review of the Ninth Circuit’s decision granting a preliminary injunction barring the government from implementing its background checks at JPL. Oral argument is scheduled for October 5, 2010.