Workforce must follow rules set by Hatch Act

By DLA Office of General Counsel

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As local, state and federal elections approach, employees must be aware of the law restricting political expression in the federal workplace, during duty hours, or on federal property at any time.

 

All civilian employees of the Defense Logistics Agency are required to abide by the Hatch Act of 1939.

 

‚ÄčThe law has three primary purposes:

 

  • Ensure the activities of the federal government are carried out in a nonpartisan fashion.
  • Protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace.
  • Ensure federal employees are advanced based on merit and not political affiliation.

During the election cycle, it’s important to know the issues and how they affect our country and its citizens. And it’s always important to express your commitment to our democracy by voting for the candidate of your choice.

However, as government employees or members of the military services, you have special responsibilities and legal restrictions in the types of political activities that you can be involved in; those restrictions apply primarily to the things you can do in the workplace, but some restrictions even apply outside the workplace.

The Hatch Act applies to three distinct employee groups within the executive branch. Most DLA employees are in the “less restricted” category. That means they may, in their personal lives, (off duty and outside the workplace) engage in political activity such as joining political clubs, signing and even circulating petitions and campaigning for a candidate to include giving political speeches.  Importantly, employees may never solicit or receive political contributions, anywhere, anytime.

While on duty or on federal property or using government equipment, however, the  Hatch Act restricts all of us from engaging in political activity. Political activity is defined as supporting or opposing a candidate or party for an active partisan election. That means you may not send or forward emails about a candidate or party, post messages “liking” a political candidate to a Facebook account or engage in tweeting in favor or against a candidate or party while in a Federal building (even if you’re off-duty and using your personal smartphone, tablet, or computer.) This includes sitting in your car in the DLA parking lot.

While the Hatch Act covers federal civilian employees, military personnel are governed by the Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces.” DODD 1344.10 reflects many of the restrictions of the Hatch Act, with a few additional ones. Active duty personnel must avoid the appearance that their political activities imply DoD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign or cause. They may not engage in partisan fundraising activities, participate actively in political rallies or conventions, to include managing campaigns or giving political speeches.

They may, however, express their personal opinions on political candidates and issues, display a political bumper sticker on their vehicle, give their own money to a political campaign or organization and attend political events as a spectator when not in uniform.

It’s best to understand the limitations of the law before becoming involved in political activities. The penalties for violating the Hatch Act or DODD 1344.10 can be severe, and all our DLA team should seek advice before participating in any questionable activities. If you have specific questions, you can contact your local general counsel.