While enforcing the Hatch Act restrictions on partisan political activities by federal employees is a responsibility of the Office of Special Counsel, agency management may take disciplinary actions on separate grounds for conduct covered by that law, the Defense Department central ethics office has said.
“OSC has exclusive jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute alleged Hatch Act violations. Consequently, an agency cannot discipline an employee for violating the Hatch Act. An agency may, however, pursue disciplinary action based on other relevant regulations or policies,” says a memo from the Standards of Conduct Office, which it said was based on input from OSC and DoD personnel law attorneys.
It gave these as examples of situations in which employees could be charged with violations separate from Hatch Act charges:
* An employee who volunteers for the campaign of a candidate for partisan political office and who uses office equipment for that purpose after hours could be charged with misuse of government equipment.
* An employee who solicits contributions for a political party from subordinates and who takes disciplinary action against one for failing to contribute could be charged under a statute that prohibits the coercion of political activity.
* Employees who engage in a heated debate over partisan political issues at the workplace that involved shouting and physical threats could be charged with conduct unbecoming of a federal employee.