The general public is aware that the Hatch Act prohibits government workers from participating in certain political activities, thanks in part to the last two presidential administrations. Using a social media account in their official capacity to engage in political activity, sending partisan political emails while on duty or at work, and using their official position to influence or interfere with impending elections are just a few examples.
The Hatch Act extends to state and local government workers, including those in the District of Columbia, in addition to federal personnel. The Office of Special Counsel, in particular, has authority over any alleged infractions committed by state and local government personnel.
The Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. § 1216(a)(1)(2), authorizes the Office of Special Counsel to investigate infractions. The charge is brought to the Merit Systems Protection Board for adjudication when the Office of Special Counsel accuses an employee of breaking the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. § 1215, 1504-1508, and 7321-7326. This is true of any Hatch Act infraction, even those allegedly committed by a state, D.C., or municipal employee. Hatch Act offenses are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Office of Special Counsel and the Merit Systems Protection Board, and charges must be filed with both of these bodies in accordance with 5 U.S. Code § 1504.
So, what happens when the Office of Special Counsel looks into a Hatch Act violation involving a non-federal employee? All of the same measures are taken as if they were a federal employee, with the exception that the Office of Special Counsel will seek to determine if the state, D.C., or municipal entity that employs the individual accused of violating the Hatch Act gets federal funds or loans. The Office of Special Counsel will then determine whether the individual performed tasks in connection with federally obtained monies as a usual and foreseeable incident of their job. The Office of Special Counsel can file a Hatch Act Violation complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board in the following instances.
If a case against a state or municipal employee is brought before the Merit Systems Protection Board, there are significant changes that might arise if a violation is discovered. According to 5 U.S.C. § 7326(2), a federal employee can be fired, demoted, debarred from federal employment for up to five years, suspended, receive a letter of reprimand, or face a civil penalty of up to $1,000. For a non-federal employee, however, there is just one penalty: removal under 5 U.S.C. § 1506.
When it comes to non-federal employees, the employing agency has the option of not terminating the employee. They must, however, lose government loans or grants totaling up to two years of the employee’s pay if they do so. If the dismissed employee is hired by another state, D.C., or municipal organization within eighteen months of their removal, that agency, or the agency from which the individual was removed, may forfeit some federal money.
Whether you are a federal or non-federal employee, the Hatch Act may apply to you. It’s crucial to understand how the Hatch Act differs from other laws, as well as the consequences that come with it. For example, if a local government makes the wrong judgment, they may end up with a considerably decreased operating budget as a result of the employee’s actions. This outcome may cause popular outrage and put the president’s re-election effort in jeopardy. On the other hand, if federal workers misunderstand the Hatch Act’s provisions and feel they do not apply to them, they may be fired. If someone suspects they may have violated the Hatch Act, regardless of whether they are a federal or non-federal employee, they should report it immediately and consult an expert employment business or attorney for assistance on how to proceed.
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