DOs and DON'Ts

The Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326, restricts Federal employee involvement in partisan political activity. Partisan political activity is any activity directed toward the success or failure of a partisan candidate, political party, or partisan political group.  Violation of the Hatch Act may result in disciplinary action, to include removal from Federal employment.  Employees should consult with the Departmental Ethics Office before engaging in any partisan political activity.

There are three different classes of employees under the Hatch Act:

  1. Career SES, Administrative Law Judges (ALJ), Administrative Appeals Judges (AAJ), Contract Appeals Board Members (CABM), and employees of certain intelligence or enforcement agencies or officies (except PAS) are the most restricted group.. 
  2. GS, WG, noncareer SES, Schedule C, SL, and ST employees are in the lesser restricted group.  This group may participate in certain partisan political activity but only in a purely personal (not official) capacity.
  3. Presidentially appointed, Senate confirmed personnel (PAS) are subject to special Hatch Act rules. They are less constrained in terms of where and when they can engage in political activity because of their 24-hour duty status. They too, however, may only participate in partisan political activity in a purely personal (not official) capacity.

Hatch Act Rules

No Use of Official Authority

A Federal employee may NOT use his or her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.  Prohibited activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Using his or her official title while participating in political activity
  • Using his or her authority to coerce any person to participate in political activity
  • Soliciting, accepting, or receiving uncompensated individual volunteer services from a subordinate for any political purpose
     

Examples:

  • An employee who signs a letter seeking uncompensated volunteer services from individuals may not identify himself or herself by using his or her official title.  However, the employee may use a general form of address, such as "The Honorable."
  • An employee may not ask his or her subordinate employees to provide uncompensated individual volunteer services for a political party, partisan political group, or candidate for partisan political office.  Moreover, he or she may not accept or receive such services from a subordinate employee who offers to donate them.
     

No Fundraising

A Federal employee may NOT solicit, accept, or receive political contributions.

Examples include:

  • Asking for donations, e.g., by mail, email, or social media
  • Working a phone bank (if asking for contributions)
  • Hosting a fundraiser
  • Inviting others to a fundraiser
  • Sharing or liking fundraising posts on social media
     

No Partisan Political Activity at Work*

A Federal employee may NOT engage in partisan political activity while:

  • On duty (including when telecommuting or on official time for union duties)
  • In a Government room or building (including break rooms, conference rooms, and union offices, if inside a Federal building) or any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties
  • Wearing a Government uniform, badge, or insignia
  • Using a Government-owned or -leased vehicle

Examples of prohibited activity include:

  • Wearing buttons, t-shirts, hats
  • Displaying screen savers, posters, candidate photographs
  • Making online donations
  • Emailing, blogging, tweeting, posting to social media
    • Even if using a personal device or email account
    • Even if sharing or forwarding content authored by others
    • Even if sharing or forwarding to friends or like-minded coworkers
    • Even union email if it meets the definition of partisan political activity

      *This prohibition does not apply to PAS officials.  However, a PAS official may not conduct any of these activities while acting in an official capacity.  For example, a PAS official may not wear a political button or display a screen saver, poster, or candidate photograph in his or her office while actually performing the duties of his or her office.  PAS officials should contact the Departmental Ethics Office before engaging in any partisan political activity.

 

Use of Privately Owned Vehicles

You may display a partisan political bumper sticker on your privately owned vehicle and park it in a Federal parking lot.  Up to two partisan political bumper stickers (for example, one for candidate A in a Presidential race and one for candidate B in a congressional race) would not violate the Hatch Act.  Employees must be cautioned, though, against displaying other partisan political materials, or even bumper stickers, in such a way that makes the vehicle appear to be a campaign mobile. If you use your private vehicle for official purposes, you must cover the bumper sticker(s) while the vehicle is being used for official duties.

 

Candidacy for Public Office

The Hatch Act and other Government policies may restrict an employee's ability to run for public office.  If you are considering running for public office, contact the Departmental Ethics Office and your Bureau Ethics Office for guidance.

 

(See the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) website for additional information and guidance.)