Hatch Act Rights

hatch act

From: Stone, Leland S. (ARC-TH)

Sent: Thursday, February 18, 2016 9:32 AM

Subject: Hatch Act Information

Dear Ames Federal Employee:

It is election season again so time for a little refresher on the Hatch Act.  The stakes are indeed high as any violation of the Hatch Act may result in termination so please take the time to familiarize yourself with the rules stated below.

NASA employees may discuss the pros and cons of public policies or pending legislation at the workplace (as long as these activities do not disrupt or interfere with work).   They also have a first amendment right to express these opinions to elected representatives as long as they do so on their own time and do not use government resources (i.e., government phone or computer) and do not use information that is not publicly available (e.g., internal non-public NASA documents).  The Hatch Act does not regulate such legislative/policy speech.

The Hatch Act is a law that protects the public by preventing federal employees from engaging in partisan political speech/activities (i.e., advocating for or against the election of a candidate, or in away working to influence the election of candidate for partisan political office) while on government property, or on government time, or leveraging one’s government position in any way.  It also places some restrictions on political activity off-site and off-the-clock (e.g., soliciting campaign contributions for political candidates, parties, or PACs, except under restricted circumstances related to a Union PAC – see below).

NASA Bargaining Unit employees are considered Less Restricted under the Hatch Act.

Less Restricted Employees – Political Restrictions and Prohibited Activities

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 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 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 host a political fundraiser.
    • May not collect contributions or sell tickets to political fundraising functions.*
  • 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 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))).

Less Restricted Employees – Permitted Activities

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.

For more information, including rules related to social media use, please see the Office of Special Counsel website (osc.gov) which has all the definitive information related to the Hatch Act as well as answers to FAQs.

Best, Lee, President AFEU

 

From the OSC.gov FAQ, https://osc.gov/Pages/HatchAct-FAQs.aspx

Does the Hatch Act prohibit me from soliciting or accepting political contributions even when I am off duty and not in the federal workplace?

A: Yes. The Hatch Act prohibits employees from soliciting, accepting, or receiving political contributions at all times. Thus, even when an employee is off duty and away from the workplace, he may not fundraise for a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group. For example, the Hatch Act prohibits an employee from sending or forwarding an e-mail that solicits political contributions, even when the employee is at home and off duty.

May a federal employee who is a member of a union (i.e., federal labor organization) solicit or receive a political contribution?

A: Yes, in one limited circumstance.  Although the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from soliciting or receiving political contributions at any time, a federal employee who is a member of a union that has a political action committee (PAC) may solicit or receive a contribution from another member of the same union, as long as (1) the contribution is for the union PAC; (2) the other member is not a subordinate; and (3) the activity does not take place while the employee is on duty or in the federal workplace.