Recent Hatch Act cases brought by the Office of Special Counsel serve as an election-year reminder of the wide range of behaviors prohibited by the law and range of the potential consequences.
The OSC said that one of the cases involved a postal clerk who made political statements to a customer while on duty and in uniform, including that he would never vote for one of the parties again and joking that it would cost the customer more to mail a ballot if the customer were voting for that party. “Other customers overheard the statements and one witness told OSC she decided to mail her ballot from a local library instead of the post office because she was concerned that the USPS employee would tamper with her ballot,” the OSC said.
Another case involved an FAA employee who “while at work, made multiple Facebook postings over a period of several months that were in support” of one party and opposing the other despite warnings from a supervisor. supervisors had warned him not to make political social media posts from his government computer. In a settlement agreement, the individual agreed to a 30-day suspension without pay, it said.
In a third recent case, the OSC charged that a former VA employee had violated the Hatch Act by running for partisan office while still employed at the department. It said that an MSPB hearing officer upheld 11 of the 15 charges and imposed the maximum penalty available since the person had left the VA in the meantime—a civil fine of $1,000 and a five-year debarment from federal service.