When employees of government contractors, including scientists and engineers who work with NASA, cried foul because they were subject to "intrusive" background checks
, the case was brought to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Recently, the country's highest court took the side of the government employers. According to The New York Times, federal employees have long been subject to extensive background checks. But in 2004, the requirement was extended to employees of government contractors as well. Employees are asked about everything from drug use to counseling and asked to sign a form authorizing the government to collect data from schools, landlords and former employers. The lawsuit was filed by 28 employees of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a NASA center operated by the California Institute of Technology. The workers felt that their informational privacy had been compromised as they worked on civilian space research. In an unanimous decision, the court ruled that questions of drug use and other personal matters do not constitute a violation of privacy rights, says the Los Angeles Times, and that it was reasonable for the government to run background checks on people working on multibillion-dollar projects such as space telescopes. The case went to the Supreme Court after the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit provisionally agreed with the employees in 2008.