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JPL to appeal NLRB order rescinding discipline of 5 employees

A National Labor Relations Board judge ordered JPL to remove disciplinary letters from the files of five employees accused of violating spam rules by sharing emails.

May 14, 2013|By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Tuesday said it planned to appeal a National Labor Relations Board judge's order to rescind disciplinary actions against five engineers and scientists.

"Caltech respectfully disagrees with the decision and intends to appeal," JPL spokeswoman Veronica McGregor said in a brief statement.

Administrative Law Judge William G. Kocol had ordered JPL, which is operated by the California Institute of Technology for NASA, to remove disciplinary letters from the employee files of the five. They were accused of violating spam rules by sharing emails at work about a Supreme Court decision on background security checks for JPL employees.

Robert Nelson, who was among the five, said Tuesday that he was shocked about the appeal.

"All Judge Kocol asked them to do was remove five letters from the files of five people — three of whom, including myself, don't work there anymore.

"The legal fees they are spending ought to concern donors to Caltech and the federal government, which supports it," Nelson said.

The five were among 28 employees at JPL who challenged a directive by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to extend background checks to all corporate, college and think tank employees who worked on government projects.

The Supreme Court ruled that questions of drug use and other personal matters did not violate privacy rights. The scientists were disciplined for using JPL computers to express their views about the ruling.

Kocol ruled that the emails were protected speech.

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