Several recent Hatch Act cases illustrate the range of restrictions on partisan political activities by federal employees under that law.
In one case, the Office of Special Counsel has filed a complaint alleging that a federal employee “used her position to provide a guided tour of a federal facility to a candidate seeking a partisan political office. The purpose of the tour, which was not open to the general public, was to provide the candidate with information to be used for the campaign. For example, photographs taken during the tour were posted to the campaign’s social media pages.”
The OSC said the employee knew that the agency had denied the candidate’s requests and that she had received a reminder that such a tour could violate the Hatch Act.
In another case, the OSC said that a hearing officer of the MSPB found a violation by an immigration judge because of partisan comments made from the bench during a hearing. The judge has since retired but faces a 30-month debarment from federal employment, it said.
Two other cases involved more common situations, involving sending partisan political emails and making political social media postings while at work and soliciting political contributions on social media. The second involved including a partisan political message during a presentation at work. The employee in the first case accepted a 90-day unpaid suspension as part of a settlement agreement and the second a 30-day suspension.
“With election season drawing near, it is critical that federal employees understand and abide by their Hatch Act obligations,” the OSC said.