JPL staff members get partial victory in privacy lawsuit

first_imgThe open-ended waiver, which likely will not be barred under Wright’s temporary injunction, “is by far the worst part,” said Mike Meacham, a mechanical engineer working on the Mars Science Laboratory rover. During the hearing, Caltech attorney Mark Holscher said that 4,100 of the 5,000 JPL employees had filled out the forms for the new security check. He and the other attorneys for the defendants and the plaintiffs declined to comment on Wright’s decision. The security measures in dispute were created by NASA in accordance with a post-Sept. 11, 2001, order by President Bush calling for “a mandatory, government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification issued by the federal government to its employees and contractors.” JPL employees who objected to the manner in which the order was carried out, have sought support from their congressional representatives, hosted protests outside the campus, and donated thousands of dollars to a legal fund to fight it. During the hearing, Wright said he wanted to balance their privacy concerns with those for safety. “I don’t want to see these employees hurt,” he said, “but I want the security of this nation preserved. I don’t want any sleepers infiltrating NASA or JPL.” [email protected] (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4451160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE – Twenty-eight JPL staff members suing Caltech and the government over invasion of privacy concerns have gained a partial victory in federal court. U.S. District Judge Otis Wright said Monday he planned to grant a temporary injunction that would keep the National Aeronautics and Space Administration from asking employees about past drug use or treatment during a mandatory new background check. But Wright did not mention expanding the injunction to cover the most controversial portion of the check, an open-ended waiver that JPL employees must also sign. The waiver gives investigators access to records that “may include, but is not limited to, academic, residential, achievement, performance, attendance, disciplinary, employment history, and criminal history record information.” Wright said he would make his formal ruling on the injunction by the end of the week, after more research into previous cases. Wright also set an Oct. 19 hearing to decide whether to grant a permanent and broader injunction. Employees have until Friday to complete the forms or their employment will be “voluntarily terminated” Oct. 27. Monday’s ruling brought confusion and concern for several of the approximately 80 JPL employees who attended the hearing. “We didn’t know what it meant. It was very baffling and we still aren’t sure,” said lead plaintiff Robert Nelson, a scientist on the Saturn-visiting Cassini mission. For many at JPL, the partial injunction will not ease the decision about whether to complete the forms. last_img

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