In National Aeronautics and Space Administration v Nelson, contract employees at a NASA facility sued claiming that two parts of a standard government employment background investigation violated their Constitutional privacy interest in avoiding disclosure of personal matters. The first part asked whether an employee had "used, possessed, supplied, or manufactured illegal drugs in the last year," and if so asked the employee to provide information about "any treatment or counseling received." The second part asked references if they had any reason to question an employee's honesty or trustworthiness. It also asked references if they had any adverse information concerning, among other things, an employee's violation of law, financial integrity, abuse of alcohol or drugs, or mental or emotional stability, and if so to provide an explanation.
The Ninth Circuit ruled that NASA (an agency of the United States Government) had a legitimate interest in conducting basic employment background checks to ensure the security of its facilities and in employing a competent, reliable workforce. The questions at issue were reasonable, employment-related inquiries that furthered the NASA's interests in managing its internal operations. Also, the information collected is shielded by statue from unwarranted disclosure. The mere fact that the non-disclosure requirement is subject to exceptions did not undermine the protections provided. As such the inquiries were held not to violate any Constitutional right to informational privacy.