Hatch Act and Federal Employees

2014 is an election year and it is essential that as Federal employees, we adhere to the Hatch Act.

What is the Hatch Act?   Originally passed in 1939, this United States federal legislation prohibits federal employees, employees of the District of Columbia and certain employees of state and local governments from engaging in partisan political activity.

In 1993, the Act was substantially amended.  The 1993 amendments, 5 U.S.C.S. §§ 7321-7326, clarified the rights of federal employees and permit most federal employees to take an active part in partisan political management and partisan political campaigns.  While federal employees are still prohibited from seeking public office in partisan elections, most employees are free to work, while off duty, on the partisan campaigns of the candidates of their choice.  However, a small group of federal employees are subject to greater restrictions and continue to be prohibited from engaging in partisan political management and partisan political campaigns. The Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C.S. §§ 7321-7326, forbids employees of the United States and its agencies, generally, from politicizing the work place.  The Act bars only the misuse of official authority or influence, and misuse of work place and official duties.

Hatch Act and Federal Employees

All civilian employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the President and the Vice President, are covered by the provisions of the Hatch Act.  Federal and District of Columbia employees subject to the Hatch Act continue to be covered while on annual leave, sick leave, leave without pay, or furlough.  Federal employees fall within two categories under the Hatch Act, Further Restricted and Less Restricted.  Most federal executive branch employees (except those listed here) are considered Less Restricted under the Hatch Act. The Less Restricted Federal employees may take an active part in partisan political management or partisan political campaigns.

Less restricted federal employees

  • May not use their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election. For example:
  • May not solicit, accept or receive a donation or contribution for a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group. For example:
  • May not be candidates for public office in partisan political elections.
  • May not knowingly solicit or discourage the participation in any political activity of anyone who has business pending before their employing office.
  • May not engage in political activity – i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group – 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. For example:
  • May not use their official titles or positions while engaged in political activity.
  • May not invite subordinate employees to political events or otherwise suggest to subordinates that they attend political events or undertake any partisan political activity.
  • May not host a political fundraiser.
  • May not invite others to a political fundraiser.
  • May not collect contributions or sell tickets to political fundraising functions.*
  • May not distribute campaign materials or items.
  • May not display campaign materials or items.
  • May not perform campaign related chores.
  • May not wear or display partisan political buttons, T-shirts, signs, or other items.
  • May not make political contributions to a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.
  • May not post a comment to a blog or a social media site that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.
  • May not use any e-mail account or social media to distribute, send, or forward content that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.

* Soliciting, accepting, or receiving such donations or contributions may be done so long as the person being solicited is: 1) a member of the same federal labor organization as defined under section 7103(4) of this title or a federal employee organization which as of the date of enactment of the Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993 had a multicandidate political committee (as defined under section 315(a)(4) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 441a(a)(4))); 2) not a subordinate employee; and 3) the solicitation is for a contribution to the multicandidate political committee (as defined under section 315(a)(4)of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 441a(a)(4))) of such federal labor organization as defined under section 7103(4) of this title or a federal employee organization which as of the date of the enactment of the Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993 had a multicandidate political committee (as defined under section 315(a)(4)of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2) U.S.C. 441a(a)(4))).

Penalties

 Less restricted federal employees may engage in partisan political management and campaigns. Such employees, for example:

  • May be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections.
  • May register and vote as they choose.
  • May assist in voter registration drives.
  • May contribute money to political campaigns, political parties, or partisan political groups.
  • May attend political fundraising functions.
  • May attend and be active at political rallies and meetings.
  • May join and be an active member of political clubs or parties.
  • May hold office in political clubs or parties.
  • May sign and circulate nominating petitions.
  • May campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, or municipal ordinances.
  • May campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections.
  • May make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections.
  • May distribute campaign literature in partisan elections.
  • May volunteer to work on a partisan political campaign.
  • 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Sample Advisory Opinions

 

Statute and Regulations

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