Fedweek

fedweek.com: Case Serves as Reminder on Scope of Workplace Politics Ban Special Counsel Henry Kerner testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee about his findings that presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway repeatedly violated the Hatch Act, a federal law that limits political activity by government workers, on Capitol Hill in Washington in June 2019. Kerner, a Trump appointee, testified that Conway was a "repeat offender" of the Hatch Act by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.

A recent settlement in a Hatch Act case brought by the Office of Special Counsel serves as a reminder, as this election year heats up, of the scope of the ban against federal employees being involved with partisan political activities in the workplace.

The OSC had alleged in November that a federal employee had provided a guided tour of a federal facility to a candidate seeking a partisan political office to provide the candidate with information to be used for the campaign.

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The OSC called that a flagrant violation, saying the employee had been warned against conducting such a tour. The employee since has agreed to resign with a three-year ban against returning to federal employment, it said.

Guidance from OSC dating to the 2018 campaign season specifies that the law bars partisan political activity “in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties.”

This includes activities such as “ town hall meetings, rallies, parades, speeches, fundraisers, press conferences, “photo ops” or meet and greets; attending or planning such campaign events while on duty or in a federal building or office; or distributing campaign literature or wearing campaign-related items while on duty or in a federal building or office.”

It said that the guidance “should not be interpreted as prohibiting federal employees from allowing members of Congress and other elected officials from visiting federal facilities for an official purpose, to include receiving briefings, tours, or other official information.”

However, candidates’ requests to visit federal facilities that are coordinated by candidates’ campaigns are to be presumed “to be for a campaign purpose and not official business,” it added.

More on the Hatch Act and politics in the federal workplace at ask.FEDweek.com