Hatch Act: Recent cases remind feds to keep work free of politics

The federal civil service is a system that for a century has been greatly enhanced by keeping politics out of the execution of policy—a prohibition made much sturdier by the Hatch Act.

But in recent years, a wave of violations of that Act has come into view. And, this week, the Office of Special Counsel has moved on meting out discipline to a handful of serious violators. The OSC issued a release describing the transgressions, as well as the eventual punishments.

Twitter and social media have become well-known avenues for Hatch Act violations.

In one such case, a Department of Agriculture employee, while on duty, posted “numerous partisan political messages to his personal Facebook account.” The employee had violated the Hatch Act on previous occasions, according to OSC. He was suspended without pay for 30 days.

In another violation involving social media, a Department of Veterans Affairs employee “posted to Twitter dozens of tweets and retweets directed toward the success or failure of candidates for President and the U.S. Senate,” according to the OSC release. The violator was suspended without pay for 25 days.

In fact, several of the other confirmed Hatch Act violations noted in the OSC release likewise involved VA employees. In one, the employee brought a political candidate to work—as well as that candidate’s political director—and took them on a tour of a VA facility. This occurred even though the VA employee had received, in advance, information warning against such obvious on-the-job political activity. The VA employee, since retired, was assessed a $1,000 civil fine.

In yet another VA employee case, the violator used his official federal government title in connection with endorsing “a Hawaii state representative running for partisan political office,” the OSC release said. This violator received a 7-day unpaid suspension from work.

In another notable case, a Federal Aviation Administration employee actually solicited political contributions for a political action committee from two fellow employees, while at work and on workplace property. This clear Hatch Act violation resulted in a 30-day unpaid suspension.

The lesson of these and the consequences to feds who get hit with Hatch Act cases: Leave politics at home and always keep your federal position clear of such activity. For more information consult the OSC’s online guide on the Hatch Act.

 

Reader comments

Fri, Mar 5, 2021

It's not ok to badmouth any political candidate at work if you're in civil service. But it's even more egregious to do what's happened muxh more often these past few years. The hats and posters in favor of one man one political candidate, in full view at work. It's like putting up a poster. Gotta be. Illegal there. You can do it at home.

Fri, Feb 26, 2021

It was OK to bad mouth the Trump administration at work all day, every day the past 4 years and nobody would do anything about it. But now that democrats are in power, NOW you need to silence anybody not "toeing their line". Conniving Partisan Hypocrites.

Fri, Feb 26, 2021

They were just playing Follow The Leader.

Thu, Feb 25, 2021

Is the White House executive office employees outside of the Hatch Act? It sure seemed liked it in the former administration - it was so hypocritical to get emails about the Hatch Act w/ no enforcement occurring.

Thu, Feb 25, 2021 John Columbus, OH

I worked for the Federal Government for 35 years and was always aware of the need to avoid such political activity in the workplace. So I have no problem enforcing such policy now. However, after the years of abuse of the Hatch Act by members of the Trump Administration who essentially mocked the law (so much for Law and Order) and were never disciplined, to come down hard on rank and file employees seems unduly harsh. Either enforce it for EVERYONE, or just forget about it. No one should be above the law, but during the last four years, they sure seemed to be.

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