Supreme Court To Decide On Federal Employees Access to Court

September 6, 2005 ( - The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that said federal employees could not bring their employment-related grievances to federal court.

In the case of Whitman vs. Department of Transportation, in which Terry Whitman brought a case against his employer for over-zealous drug testing, the 9 th Circuit Court said the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) does not give federal court jurisdiction to federal employees, according to   The CSRA originally said that collective bargaining procedures were the only recourse federal employees had for resolving work related disputes.

The National Employees Treasury Union (NETU) argues that they specifically advocated for Congress to amend the Act for the purpose of allowing federal employees to bring their grievances to court.   Congress amended the Act in 1994.   According to, i n the past, both the 11th Circuit and the Federal Circuit courts have handed down decisions saying that federal employees do have the right to seek judicial remedy to their grievances.

The government successfully argued to the 9th Circuit that when Congress inserted the word “administrative” in its 1994 CSRA amendment, it did not explicitly authorize federal employees to sue in the courts, reports.   But, in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, NETU said “there is nothing in the language, structure or history of the CSRA to suggest that Congress intended the radical curtailment of federal employees’ rights and the narrowing of federal court jurisdiction.”