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A group of 28 scientists, engineers, and administrative support staff, who are contract workers associated with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., has mounted a court battle over a requirement that all NASA employees and contractors must complete a questionnaire with a waiver authorizing NASA to conduct broad background investigations into professional and personal areas of their lives. Workers need to complete this document (Standard Form 85 for low-risk positions) in order to receive new identification badges that provide access to JPL.

This requirement to complete the document applies to the JPL workforce of 5000, most of whom are contract workers whose positions NASA has designated as nonsensitive or low risk. The plaintiffs (also referred to as appellants), who are employees of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) working at JPL on NASA projects, consider the waiver in particular as allowing an invasion of privacy that also could adversely affect the retention and hiring of contractors and an open scientific environment.