Knowing about the Hatch Act and elections
72nd Air Base Wing Legal Office
/ Published January 10, 2020
With the 2020 elections heating up, it’s important to know about the Hatch Act. The Hatch Act, a federal law passed in 1939, limits certain political activities of federal civilian employees. The law's purposes are to ensure that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace and to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation.
The Office of Special Counsel is responsible for enforcing the Hatch Act for federal civilian employees. You can find a list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for civilian employees and more recent guidance with respect to social media on their website. Members of the Senior Executive Service are considered “Further Restricted Employees.” The majority of the civilian workforce is considered “Less Restricted Employees.”
Note that in particular, the following guidance from the OSC: “All civilian federal employees may express opinions about candidates and issues. If the expression is political activity, however — i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office or partisan political group — then the expression is not permitted while the employee is on duty, in any federal room or building, while wearing a uniform or official insignia, or using any federally owned or leased vehicle.”
Federal civilian employees may find additional information about political activities at: https://osc.gov/Services/Pages/HatchAct-Federal.aspx.
Military members may find additional information about political activities at: https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodd/134410p.pdf.