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Supreme Court Approves Background Checks

Published Date: Jan. 26, 2011
by: Timothy McClanahan

The United States Supreme Court issued a ruling last week on a case involving background checks on NASA contractors. The Supreme Court ruling is the end result of a 2007 lawsuit filed by 28 scientists and engineers at NASA's JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). The suit was filed against the U.S. government and CalTech (California Institute of Technology), alleging that the background check was too invasive.

The open-ended nature of these background checks were the cause of the consternation on the part of the workers, but the Justices said that since these background checks were similar to the sorts performed on regular workers in government positions with access to sensitive information, that previous rulings on this dating back to the Fifties effectively nullified their arguments.

Background checks for government employees with access to sensitive information is a reasonable precaution, and the idea that government contract workers with similar levels of access would be subjected to less scrutiny certainly seems counterintuitive. Many prospective employees are screened these days for positions that have access to far less sensitive information than what one could encounter in many government jobs, so the idea of a more thorough background check for those types of jobs, especially in our heightened security climate, seems inevitable.

Companies are far from the only ones who can benefit from the use of background checks. If you have a nanny, or send your child to daycare, or a church outing, or just have a spooky neighbor, the peace of mind a background check can provide could be invaluable. A name and location are all that is necessary for a regular background check, but make sure you've identified the person correctly first - similar names are a cause for concern when making use of background check information, and any suspicions on results should be left up to authorities to act upon.

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