A lawsuit filed in federal court in New York this week alleges that the U.S. government is unlawfully withholding information it normally provides the public about some 900,000 of its civilian employees, including employees working for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Brought by Public Citizen on behalf of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research group at Syracuse University, against the Office of Personnel Management, the lawsuit charges that the agency violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to provide the information or explain its refusal.
Since 1989, TRAC has posted a database on the Internet with the name, work location, salary and job category of all federal civilian workers except those in some law enforcement agencies. The data are often used by reporters and government watchdog groups to monitor policies and detect waste or abuse.
The government first began providing the public with detailed information about all its employees in a register published almost 200 years ago. The first name in the first register, authorized by Congress in 1816, was President James Madison.