The Supreme Court refused Monday to set aside a new law that bars federal employees from taking compensation for speeches and written articles.

The justices, without comment, rejected an emergency request from the National Treasury Employees Union to set aside the law, which took effect Jan. 1.The union, which represents some 140,000 executive-branch federal employees, called the ban "an impermissible burden on employees' First Amendment right to freedom of speech" because it applies regardless of subject matter.

Executive branch employees long have been prohibited from collecting honorariums for speaking or writing about topics linked to their official duties or business conducted by their agencies.

But the new ban, part of the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, applies to speeches and articles written on any subject. It prohibits all compensation other than reimbursement for actual and necessary expenses.

A federal trial judge and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here previously had refused to block enforcement of the honorarium ban. Both lower courts cited "insufficient irreparable harm." The appeals court, however, expedited its consideration of a request for a preliminary injunction. Arguments on that issue are scheduled for Jan. 29.

In other action, the Supreme Court:

- Agreed to consider letting the Federal Aviation Administration levy stiffer penalties for some safety violations. The court said it will review a ruling that the agency adopted regulations that put the penalties into effect without giving the public adequate notice and a chance to comment.

- Upheld a ruling that forced the reshaping of 29 of Arkansas' 135 legislative districts earlier this year to give black voters more clout.