The Hatch Act, Social Media, and You

Political fed

With five weeks left to this (god awful) presidential campaign cycle, its important for Fed’s to remember some of the rules that apply to us, especially when it comes to politics in the workplace.

Most Federal civilian employees may actively participate in political campaigns and other partisan activities. However, Fed’s are prohibited from engaging in such activities on duty, or in any Federal workplace, vehicle, or while in uniform.

While the Hatch Act loosened restrictions on political activity for most Federal civilian employees, Federal laws still limit the political activities of military personnel, law enforcement, national security, and career SES employees. If you plan to engage in any partisan political activity, you should consult your ethics counselor.

Here are some permitted and prohibited activities for employees who may engage in partisan activity:

May be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections May Not use their official authority or influence to interfere with an election
May register and vote as they choose
May assist in voter registration drives May Not solicit, accept or receive political contributions unless both individuals are members of the same federal labor organization or employee organization and the one solicited is not a subordinate employee
May express opinions about candidates and issues
May contribute money to political organizations
May attend political fundraising functions May Not knowingly solicit or discourage the political activity of any person who has business before the agency
May attend and be active at political rallies and meetings
May join and be an active member of a political party or club May Not engage in political activity while on duty
May sign nominating petitions May Not engage in political activity in any government office
May campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances May Not engage in political activity while wearing an official uniform
May campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections May Not engage in political activity while using a government vehicle
May make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections
May distribute campaign literature in partisan elections May Not be candidates for public office in partisan elections
May hold office in political clubs or parties including serving as a delegate to a convention May Not wear political buttons on duty

Hatch Act and Social Media

Recently, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) updated its guidance on the effects of the Hatch Act on social media use by Fed’s who engage in partisan political activities;

ALL federal employees may not:

1. Use a social media account in your official capacity to engage in political activity at any time (but including your official title/position on a social media profile is allowed)

2. Tweet, retweet, share, or like a post or content that solicits political contributions at any time

3. Like or follow the social media page of a candidate for partisan office or partisan group while on duty or in the workplace

4. Engage in political activity via social media while on duty or in the workplace

For more information on the impact of the Hatch Act and social media activity as a Fed, download the OSC’s Hatch Act Social Media Guidance for Federal Employees handout.

Whether you’re a Trump or Clinton supporter (or one of those unknown third party candidates), exercise your political speech in a responsible manner. The impact on you as an employee can be severe, as evidenced by the OSC’s announcement of the 50-day suspension of a supervisor in the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security for prohibited solicitation activity. With all that said…don’t forget to go out and vote next month!

Federal Union Employees

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