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Overview of the Hatch Act

This video gives an introduction to the Hatch Act, which restricts the political activity of some government employees. The video is from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the Hatch Act.

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Federal FAQ​s

The advice provided below concerns the interpretation of the federal Hatch Act only and does not take into account any other federal, state, or local laws that may be applicable. Employees who have additional questions or want additional information about the Act may contact OSC to obtain an advisory opinion​.​​​

Q:I work for the U.S. Postal Service. Am I covered?

A:

Q:Are all federal employees covered by the Hatch Act?

A:

No. For purposes of the Hatch Act, the term "federal employee" means any individual, other than the President and the Vice President, employed or holding office in one of the following: 1) "an Executive agency other than the Government Accountability Office"; or, 2) "a position within the competitive service which is not in an Executive agency." 5 U.S. Code § 7322. Additionally, under the Hatch Act, the term "federal employee" does not include "a member of the uniformed services or an individual employed or holding office in the government of the District of Columbia. "

Q:I am a member of the uniformed services. Am I covered by the Hatch Act?

A:

​No. Members of the uniformed services are not covered by the Hatch Act. However, if you are a reservist and a federal civilian employee, you are covered by the Hatch Act.​

Q:Are unpaid student interns covered by the Hatch Act?

A:

No. Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 3111(c)(1), an unpaid student intern is not considered a federal employee for any purpose other than those specifically listed therein, of which the Hatch Act is not one. Accordingly, because unpaid student interns are not federal employees, they are not covered by the provisions of the Hatch Act.

Q:Are federal executive agency employees who are detailed to the legislative branch still covered by the Hatch Act?

A:

Yes. The Hatch Act defines employee as “any individual, other than the President and the Vice President, employed or holding office in: an Executive agency other than the Government Accountability Office . . . .” 5 U.S. Code § 7322​​. Thus, an employee detailed to the legislative branch remains an employee as defined by the Hatch Act. As such, an employee detailed to the legislative branch remains covered by the Hatch Act and subject to the Act’s restrictions on political activity.​​

Q:What is a partisan election?

A:

A partisan political election is one in which any candidate is to be nominated or elected as representing a party any of whose candidates for Presidential elector received votes in the last preceding election at which Presidential electors were selected, but does not include any office or position within a political party or affiliated organization. Examples of political parties that received votes in the last Presidential election are the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, and Green Parties. Thus, a partisan election is one in which any candidate is to be nominated or elected as representing a political party. An election is partisan even if only one candidate represents a political party and the others do not.



The prohibition against being a candidate in a partisan election does not include running for an office or position within a political party or affiliated organization. However, note that employees who are further restricted under the Hatch Act may not hold a position or office in a political party or affiliated group because the Act prohibits them from taking an active part in partisan political management.
​​

Q:Can I be a candidate in a partisan political election?

A:

​Generally, federal employees may not be candidates in partisan elections. However, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has promulgated a federal regulation designating specific localities where federal employees residing there may be independent candidates in local partisan elections. The localities listed in the regulation are those where the majority of voters are federal employees or where special circumstances exist such that it is in the domestic interest to permit federal employees to run for local partisan political office. OPM’s list of designated localities can be found at 5 C.F.R. § 733.107.​

Q:May I run as an independent candidate in a partisan election?

A:

​Generally, federal employees may not be candidates in partisan elections, even if they run as political independents. Only those federal employees, including further restricted employees, residing in localities specifically designated by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may run as independents in local elections that are otherwise partisan. OPM’s list of designated localities can be found at 5 C.F.R. § 733.107.​

Q:Can I hold party office?

A:

Less Restricted Employees: Yes. While the Hatch Act prohibits a federal employee from being a candidate for public office in a partisan election, the Act does not prohibit an employee from being a candidate for party office. Thus, you may run for and hold office within a political party.

Further Restricted Employees: No. Because a further restricted employee may not take an active part in partisan political management, you may not run for or hold party office.​​

Q:I live in a designated locality and I want to run as an independent candidate for State Senate. May I do so?

A:

No. The exception allowing federal employees who reside in designated localities to be independent candidates in partisan elections applies only to elections for local offices in the locality where the employee resides. Thus, an employee residing in a designated locality may not be a candidate for state office, if the election is partisan.​​

Q:Can I attend a state or national party convention? If so, in what capacity?

A:

Less Restricted Employees: Yes. A federal employee may serve as a delegate, alternate, or proxy to a state or national party convention.

Further Restricted Employees: A further restricted employee may attend a party convention as a spectator, but the employee may not serve as a delegate or proxy, or address the convention, for example, to promote or oppose a candidate.

​​​

Q:May I keep my elected position if I become a federal employee after taking office?

A:

​Yes. Although the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from being candidates in partisan elections, it does not prohibit them from holding partisan elective office. Thus, if an individual holds elected office when he becomes employed by the federal government, he may serve out the remainder of his term. Likewise, a federal employee may be appointed to fill a vacancy in a partisan elective office. In both of these situations, however, the federal employee may not seek to retain the position by way of a partisan election.​

Q:What is a partisan political group or organization? For example, are entities organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code [501(c)(4) organizations] partisan political groups for purposes of the Hatch Act?

A:

“Partisan political groups or organizations” are committees, clubs, and other organizations that affiliate with a political party or candidate for political office in a partisan election. The term also includes committees, clubs, and other organizations that are organized for a partisan political purpose. 501(c)(4) organizations are organized to promote social welfare and may participate in some political activity on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office, provided such activity is not their primary activity. In light of their purpose, OSC has concluded that they are not partisan political groups for purposes of the Hatch Act.

However, because 501(c)(4) organizations may participate in some political activity, employees should be cautious about engaging in any 501(c)(4)-related activity while at work. For example, the Hatch Act would prohibit an employee from forwarding an email from a 501(c)(4) organization if that email advocates for or against a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.

Q:Can I be appointed to partisan political office?

A:

​Yes. Federal employees may be appointed to a partisan political office. Although the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from being candidates in partisan elections, it does not prohibit them from holding partisan elective office. Thus, the Hatch Act does not prohibit a federal employee from being appointed to a partisan elective office. The federal employee, however, may not seek to retain the position by way of a partisan election without first resigning from federal employment. ​

Q:Can I put a campaign sign in my front yard?

A:

Less Restricted Employees: Yes. A less restricted employee may place in his or her front yard a sign or banner supporting a partisan political candidate.

Further Restricted Employee: Yes. A further restricted employee may place in his or her front yard a sign or banner supporting a partisan political candidate.

​​

Q:What is a nonpartisan election?

A:

A nonpartisan election is one in which none of the candidates is to be nominated or elected as representing a political party any of whose candidates for Presidential elector received votes in the last preceding election at which Presidential electors were selected. 5 C.F.R. § 734.101​. Examples of political parties that received votes in the last Presidential election are the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, and Green Parties. The Hatch Act does not prohibit covered employees from being candidates in nonpartisan elections. ​​​

Q:Can I volunteer for someone’s campaign?

A:

Less Restricted Employees: Yes, less restricted employees may volunteer for a partisan candidate's campaign. Less restricted employees are permitted to participate in political activities to the extent not expressly prohibited by the Hatch Act. Examples of permitted activities that constitute political campaigning include: initiating or circulating nominating petitions; canvassing votes in support of or in opposition to a partisan political candidate; endorsing a partisan political candidate; attending and being active at political rallies and meetings; distributing campaign literature; and taking an active part in managing a partisan candidate's political campaign.

Note: Less restricted employees (except certain employees appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate and some employees paid from an appropriation for the Executive Office of the President), however, are prohibited from engaging in political activity while on duty, in a federal room or building, while wearing an official uniform or insignia, or while using a government vehicle. Likewise, less restricted employees may not use their official authority or influence to interfere with the result of an election or solicit, accept, or receive political contributions at any time. Hence, less restricted employees must be mindful that the above-listed activities could violate the Act if the employees engaged in the activities at the wrong time, or in the wrong place or manner. If a less restricted employee has a question about a specific political activity, he or she can contact OSC to obtain further guidance.

​Further Restricted Employees: No. The Hatch Act expressly prohibits further restricted employees from taking an active part in partisan political management or political campaigns. Accordingly, further restricted employees may not campaign for partisan candidates in concert with a political party, candidate for partisan political office or a partisan political group. ​​

Q:If I run as a candidate for public office in a nonpartisan election, does the Hatch Act allow me to ask for and accept political contributions?

A:

​An employee who is a candidate for public office in a nonpartisan election is not barred by the Hatch Act from soliciting, accepting, or receiving political contributions for his or her own campaign.​

Q:May I distribute brochures for a political party to people arriving at a polling place on Election Day?

A:

Less Restricted Employees: Yes. A less restricted employee may stand outside a polling place on Election Day and hand out brochures on behalf of a partisan political candidate or political party.

Further Restricted Employees: No. A further restricted employee may not distribute brochures for a political party to people arriving at a polling place on Election Day.

Q:May I run an advertisement in my local newspaper endorsing a candidate for delegate, at the request of the candidate?

A:

Less Restricted Employees: Yes. A less restricted employee may endorse or oppose a partisan political candidate or a candidate for political party office in a political advertisement, broadcast, campaign literature, or similar material.

Further Restricted Employees: No. The Hatch Act expressly prohibits further restricted employees from taking an active part in partisan political management or political campaigns. Accordingly, further restricted employees may not endorse or oppose a candidate for political party office in a political advertisement, broadcast, campaign literature, or similar material if such endorsement or opposition is done in concert with such a candidate, political party, or partisan political group.​

Q:Does the Hatch Act still apply to me if I take a leave of absence to work on a campaign?

A:

Less Restricted Employees: Yes. The Hatch Act applies to federal civilian employees so long as they are employed by an executive branch agency. The only prohibition that is affected by an employee's leave status is 5 U.S.C. § 7324(a)(1)​: an employee may not engage in political activity while they are on duty. Because an employee is not on duty while they are on leave, this prohibition would not apply. However, while on leave, the employee remains subject to the other prohibitions in the Hatch Act. Thus, an employee on leave is still prohibited from engaging in political activity while in a government building, wearing an official uniform or insignia, or using a government vehicle. § 7324. Moreover, while the Act permits less restricted employees to actively participate in partisan political management and partisan political campaigns, those employees are nevertheless prohibited, at all times, from using their official authority or influence for the purpose of affecting the result of an election; knowingly soliciting, accepting, or receiving political contributions from any person; being candidates for public office in partisan elections; and knowingly soliciting or discouraging the political activity of any individual with business before the employee's agency. § 7323(a)(1)-(4)​.

Thus, while the Hatch Act does not prohibit a less restricted employee from taking leave to volunteer for a partisan political campaign, the employee is still prohibited from, among other things, soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions while they are on leave.

Further Restricted Employees: Yes. The guidelines set forth above, for less restricted employees, apply, but with an added limitation. Unlike less restricted employees, the Hatch Act prohibits further restricted employees from taking an active part in partisan political management and partisan political campaigns. This means further restricted employees may not, at any time, engage in political activity on behalf of or in concert with a political party, partisan political group, or candidate for partisan public office. For instance, taking an "active part" would include: distributing material created by a partisan candidate, political party, or partisan political group; speaking at a political rally organized or sponsored by such entities; or serving as a campaign volunteer. It also would include engaging in political activity through a medium sponsored or controlled by a political party, partisan political group, or partisan candidate, such as by endorsing a candidate in a commercial sponsored by one of these entities.

Thus, the Hatch Act prohibits a further restricted employee from volunteering for a partisan political campaign even if the employee is on leave. ​​​​

Q:Can I serve as a treasurer for a political action committee (PAC) or as the treasurer for someone’s campaign?

A:

Less Restricted Employees: It depends. Federal employees may actively participate in partisan political campaigns and partisan political management to the extent not expressly prohibited by the Hatch Act. Thus, an employee may serve as treasurer for a partisan political campaign or other partisan political group, provided he does not solicit, accept, or receive political contributions from any person (or engage in any other of the Act's prohibited activities). For example, an employee serving as the treasurer of a partisan political campaign may not allow his name to appear anywhere on a letter soliciting political contributions for an organization, party, or candidate, including in the letterhead of such a letter. Some states require the campaign treasurer's name to appear on all campaign materials, including solicitations. Thus, an employee living in one of those states would be prohibited from serving as a campaign treasurer. He could, however, hold another position within the campaign if the duties of which would not entail activities prohibited by the Hatch Act.

Further Restricted Employees: No. Further restricted employees may not take an active part in partisan political management or partisan political campaigns. Thus, they may not hold office in any partisan political organization or work for a partisan political campaign in any capacity. Accordingly, an employee who is further restricted under the Act may not serve as a treasurer for a PAC or for a candidate's partisan political campaign, regardless of whether the position would entail soliciting, accepting, or receiving political contributions.

​​

Q:Can I help organize a political fundraiser?

A:

Less Restricted Employees: Although the Hatch Act would prohibit an employee from hosting or serving as a point of contact for a fundraiser, the employee is allowed to help organize a fundraiser. For example, the employee could stuff envelopes, set up tables for the event, select the menu, or hire entertainment. However, the employee must not personally solicit, accept, or receive political contributions.

Further Restricted Employees: No, you may not organize a political fundraiser.

​​​

Q:Can I speak at a political fundraiser?

A:

Less Restricted Employees: A less restricted employee is allowed to give a speech or keynote address at a political fundraiser, as long as he or she is not on duty, appears only in his or her personal capacity, and does not solicit political contributions.

Further Restricted Employees: No. A further restricted employee may not speak at a political fundraiser.

​​​

Q:My spouse is hosting a political fundraiser. Can I assist with the event?

A:

Less Restricted Employees: Yes, but only in a limited capacity. The Code of Federal Regulations states that a federal "employee may help organize a fundraiser including supplying names for the invitation list as long as he or she does not personally solicit, accept, or receive contributions." 5 C.F.R. § 734.208, example 9. By its very nature, a fundraiser is organized to solicit, accept, and receive contributions.

A Hatch Act-covered employee may assist his spouse with addressing envelopes, placing invitations in a U.S. mail receptacle, or cleaning/organizing the venue. A covered employee may even suggest names to his spouse to add to the invitation list; however, the suggested invitees must have a relationship with the spouse independent of the covered employee. For example, the covered employee can suggest a neighbor or church member who is known to both. The covered employee, however, cannot suggest his co-worker(s) if his spouse does not know the co-worker(s) well enough to invite them of his or her own accord. Covered employees cannot act or appear to act as the host of the event, including introducing any speakers or attendees.

Covered employees who find themselves in this situation are strongly encouraged to contact OSC for guidance as to their specific circumstances.

Further Restricted Employees: No. A further restricted employee may not assist at a political fundraiser, including behind the scenes activities.

Q:May an employee solicit and accept contributions for his candidacy for party office?

A:

Less Restricted Employees: Yes. If the contribution is made solely for the benefit of the employee's campaign for party office, the Hatch Act would not prohibit the employee from soliciting or accepting such contributions. However, the employee should not donate or refer any of the campaign contributions received to a political party or partisan political group.

The question is not applicable to further restricted employees because they may not take an active part in partisan political management.

​​

Q:If the sitting President is a candidate for reelection, may federal employees display his or her picture in their offices?

A:

An employee covered by the Hatch Act may not engage in political activity while on duty, in a government room or building, while wearing an official uniform, or using a government vehicle. 5 U.S.C. § 7324​. Political activity is defined as activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for a partisan political office, or partisan political group. 5 C.F.R. § 734.101​.

Thus, the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from, among other things, displaying pictures of candidates for partisan public office in the federal workplace. 5 C.F.R. § 734.306​, Example 16. If the President is a candidate for reelection, the Hatch Act prohibits an employee from displaying his or her photograph in the federal workplace, unless one of the two exceptions discussed below applies.

The first exception applies to official photographs of the President. The Hatch Act does not prohibit the continued display of official photographs of the President in the federal workplace, to include both public and employee work spaces. Official photographs include the traditional portrait photo of the President displayed in all federal buildings, as well as photographs of the President conducting official business (e.g., President meeting with heads of state). However, these official photographs must be displayed in a traditional size and manner and should not be altered in anyway (e.g., the addition of halos or horns). Pictures that are distributed by the President's campaign or a partisan organization, such as the Democratic National Committee or Organizing for America, are not official, even if they depict the President performing an official act. Similarly, pictures downloaded from the internet or clipped from magazines or newspapers, screen savers, and life-size cutouts are not official photographs for purposes of this exception.

The second exception, which applies to all candidate photographs, concerns personal employee photographs. An employee would not be prohibited from having a photograph of any candidate in his or her office, if all of the following apply: the photograph was on display in advance of the election season; the employee is in the photograph with the candidate; and the photograph is a personal one (i.e., the employee has a personal relationship with the candidate and the photograph is taken at some kind of personal event or function, for example, a wedding, and not at a campaign event or some other type of partisan political event). An employee must not have a political purpose for displaying the photograph, namely, promoting or opposing a political party or a candidate for partisan political office.

If you have any questions, please contact our office for additional guidance.​​​

Q:May I write a letter to the editor or post a comment on a blog endorsing a partisan political candidate?

A:

Less Restricted Employees: Yes, but with some limitations. Federal employees are permitted to express their opinions privately and publicly on political subjects and participate in political activities to the extent not expressly prohibited by the Hatch Act. The Act expressly prohibits federal employees (except certain employees appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate and some employees paid from an appropriation for the Executive Office of the President) from engaging in political activity while on duty, in a federal building, or in a government vehicle. In addition, federal employees may not use their official authority or influence to interfere with the result of an election or solicit, accept, or receive political contributions at any time.

Accordingly, a federal employee may write a letter to the editor or post a comment on a blog endorsing a candidate, provided he does not do so while on duty or in a federal building or vehicle. Furthermore, he must endorse the candidate in his personal capacity and may not identify his federal position or office. Finally, the endorsement may not contain a request for political contributions or information about where voters may contribute, even if the employee makes the endorsement anonymously.

Further Restricted Employees: Similarly, further restricted employees may write a letter to the editor or post a comment to a blog in accordance with the conditions described above as long as the activity is not done in concert with a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office or a partisan political group.​​​

Q:A Hatch Act complaint has been filed against me. Can I find out who filed it?

A:

As a general matter, OSC staff may not disclose the name of the person who filed a Hatch Act complaint. OSC's program files, including Hatch Act complaints, contain personal or sensitive information, which is generally protected from release under the Freedom of Information Act. Release of the names of individuals who have reported suspected Hatch Act violations is generally considered to be an unwarranted invasion of privacy that could interfere with the OSC's law enforcement efforts by subjecting such individuals, on whom OSC relies to report potential violations, to possible harassment or reprisal for doing so. For more information about this policy please refer to 1/26/2004 Policy Statement on Disclosure of Information from OSC Program Files (OSC49a).​​​​

Q:May a federal employee engage in political activity on Facebook or Twitter?

A:

Yes, federal employees may express their opinions about a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race (e.g., post, "like," "share," "tweet," "retweet"), but there are a few limitations. Specifically, the Hatch Act prohibits employees from:

  • engaging in any political activity via Facebook or Twitter while on duty or in the workplace;
  • referring to their official titles or positions while engaged in political activity at any time (note that inclusion of an employee's official title or position on one's social media profile, without more, is not an improper use of official authority); and
  • suggesting or asking anyone to make political contributions at any time. Thus, they should neither provide links to the political contribution page of any partisan group or candidate in a partisan race nor "like," "share," or "retweet" a solicitation from one of those entities, including an invitation to a political fundraising event. An employee, however, may accept an invitation to a political fundraising event from such entities via Facebook or Twitter.

Further Restricted Employees: Yes, further restricted federal employees also may express their opinions about a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race (e.g., post, "like," "share," "tweet," "retweet"), but there are a few limitations. In addition to the limitations above, the Hatch Act prohibits further restricted employees from:

  • posting or linking to campaign or other partisan material of a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race;
  • "sharing" these entities' Facebook pages or their content; and
  • "retweeting" posts from these entities' Twitter accounts.

​​

Q:May a federal employee engage in political activity on Facebook or Twitter if she is “friends” with or has “followers” who are subordinate employees?

A:

Yes, but subject to the limitations described in other related questions and the following guidelines. If a supervisor’s statements about a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race are directed at all of his Facebook friends or Twitter followers, e.g., posted on his Facebook page, then there is no Hatch Act violation. Such statements would be improper if the supervisor specifically directed them toward her subordinate employees, or to a subset of friends that includes subordinate employees. For example, a supervisor should not send to a subordinate employee a Facebook message or “tweet” that shows her support for a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race.

​​

Q:May a federal employee send or forward a partisan political email to subordinate employees?

A:

​No. It is an improper use of official authority for a supervisor to send or forward a partisan political email to subordinates, at any time.

Q:May a federal employee become a “friend,” “like,” or “follow” the social media page of a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race?

A:

Yes, but not while on duty or in the workplace. ​

Q:May a federal employee display a political party or campaign logo or candidate photograph as her cover or header photo on Facebook or Twitter?

A:

​Yes, federal employees may display a political party or campaign logo or candidate photograph as their cover or header photo on their personal Facebook or Twitter accounts. This display, usually featured at the top of one’s social media profile, without more, is not improper political activity.

Q:May a federal employee display a political party or campaign logo or a candidate photograph as his profile picture on Facebook or Twitter?

A:

​Yes, but subject to the following limitations. Because a profile picture accompanies most actions on social media, a federal employee would not be permitted, while on duty or in the workplace, to post, “share,” “tweet,” or “retweet” any items on Facebook or Twitter, because each such action would show their support for a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race, even if the content of the action is not about those entities. 

Q:I am an employee who was appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate (PAS). Am I covered by the Hatch Act?

A:

Yes. An employee appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate (PAS), is subject to the provisions of the Hatch Act. However, certain PAS's are not subject to the Act's prohibition against engaging in political activity while on duty, in a federal room or building, wearing an official uniform or insignia, or using a government vehicle. To be exempt from this prohibition, a PAS must meet all of the following criteria: 

1) the duties and responsibilities of his position must continue outside normal duty hours and while away from the normal duty post; 

2) his position must be located within the United States; and 

3) he must determine policies to be pursued by the United States in relations with foreign powers or in the nationwide administration of federal laws. 

If a PAS meets all these criteria, he is not prohibited from engaging in political activity while on duty, in a federal room or building, wearing an official uniform or insignia, or using a government vehicle, provided the costs associated with the political activity are not paid for by money derived from the Treasury of the United States. However, the PAS remains subject to all the other prohibitions of the Hatch Act, and thus, may not: use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election; knowingly solicit, accept, or receive a political contribution from any person; be a candidate for public office in a partisan election; or knowingly solicit or discourage the political activity of any person who has business before the employee's employing office.​​

Q:I am an employee who was appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate (PAS). Does the exemption from the Hatch Act’s prohibition against engaging in political activity while on duty, which applies to me, also apply to my staff?

A:

No. Assuming a Presidential appointee with Senate confirmation (PAS) meets the criteria outlined in the answer to the previous question, he—but only he—may engage in political activity while on duty, in a government room or building, wearing an official uniform or insignia, or using a government vehicle, so long as, the costs associated with the political activity are not paid for by money derived from the Treasury of the United States. The appointee’s staff, however, is not subject to this exemption. Therefore, the appointee’s staff members are still prohibited from engaging in political activity while on duty, in a federal room or building, wearing an official uniform or insignia, or using a government vehicle.​​

Q:May an Presidential appointee with Senate confirmation (PAS), ask his chief of staff (or any other subordinate employee) to contact and/or liaise with a political party to find out where, or if, the party needs the PAS’s help?

A:

No. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees, including PAS’s, from soliciting or accepting uncompensated volunteer services for any political purpose from an individual who is a subordinate. 5 C.F.R. §§ 734.302(b)(3)​, 734.303(d)​​. Thus, the Act prohibits a supervisor from asking subordinate employees to contact a political party to inquire about opportunities for the PAS to assist the party.​​​

Q:I am a candidate in a nonpartisan election. Can I use my official title in my campaign materials?

A:

Because the election is nonpartisan, the Hatch Act would not prohibit you from using your official title in your campaign materials. However, you should check with your agency ethics official about other rules or regulations that may govern such activity.​​

Q:Can I make a contribution to the campaign of a partisan candidate, or to a political party or organization?

A:

Yes. A federal employee may contribute to the campaign of a partisan candidate, or to a political party or organization, provided the employee does not do so while on duty or in the federal workspace.

Q:I am a federal employee and a supervisor. May I invite my subordinates to a fundraiser for a partisan political candidate or political party?

A:

​No. Inviting subordinate employees to a political fundraiser would violate at least two provisions of the Hatch Act. First, inviting other individuals to a political fundraiser would violate the Act’s prohibition against soliciting, accepting, or receiving political contributions, even if the supervisory employee does not expressly ask the individuals to contribute money. Second, inviting subordinate employees to any political event would violate the Act’s prohibition against using one’s official authority or influence to affect the result of an election. Such conduct is inherently coercive, and violates the Act even if the supervisory employee does not threaten to penalize subordinates who do not attend or promise to reward those who do attend. Finally, inviting subordinates to a political fundraiser while at work would violate the Act’s prohibition against engaging in political activity while on duty or in a federal building or vehicle. 

Q:May a federal employee send or forward an email invitation to a political fundraising event to others?

A:

No. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from soliciting or receiving political contributions, which includes inviting individuals to political fundraising events, at any time.

Q:Can my name appear on invitations to a political fundraiser as a sponsor or point of contact?

A:

No. An employee's name may not be shown on an invitation to such a fundraiser as a sponsor or point of contact. 

Q:If I am going to speak at a political fundraiser, what information about me can be printed on the invitations?

A:

An employee's name can be shown as a guest speaker. However, the reference should not in any way suggest that the employee solicits or encourages contributions. Invitations to the fundraiser may not include the employee's official title; although an employee who is ordinarily addressed with a general term of address such as "The Honorable" may use, or permit the use of, that term of address on the invitation. 

Q:Can my spouse host a fundraiser?

A:

Yes. Hatch Act coverage is not transferred to spouses or family members. Therefore, as long as your spouse is not covered by the Hatch Act because of his or her own employment, then he or she may host a fundraiser. 

Q:A political party or club is hosting a “meet and greet” luncheon for a partisan political candidate. The event is not a fundraiser; however, the cost of attending the event is $20, which covers the room rental and food service. May a federal employee sell tickets to the meet and greet or collect the $20 from attendees?

A:

No. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions. A political contribution is defined as any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value, made for the purpose of promoting or opposing a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group. 5 C.F.R. § 734.101​. The purpose of the luncheon is to promote a candidate who is running for partisan political office. Accordingly, contributions made to help cover the costs of the luncheon constitute political contributions for purposes of the Hatch Act. Because the Hatch Act prohibits employees from soliciting or accepting political contributions, the Act would prohibit a federal employee from soliciting or accepting contributions to help pay for the cost of the luncheon.​​​

Q:May an employee solicit and accept contributions to help pay for the costs of attending a political party convention as a delegate?

A:

Less Restricted employees: No. The Hatch Act prohibits employees from soliciting, accepting, or receiving political contributions. A political contribution is defined as any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value, made for the purpose of promoting or opposing a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group. The purpose of being a delegate to a party's convention is to vote for and support a particular candidate as the nominee of that party. Accordingly, contributions made to a delegate to help cover the costs of attending the national convention constitute political contributions for purposes of the Hatch Act. Because the Hatch Act prohibits employees from soliciting or accepting political contributions, the Act would prohibit a federal employee from soliciting or accepting contributions to help pay for the costs of attending a party convention as a delegate.

This question is not applicable to Further Restricted employees because they may not take an active part in partisan political management and thus may not serve as a delegate.

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Q:Does the Hatch Act prohibit me from soliciting or accepting political contributions even when I am off duty and not in the federal workplace?

A:

Yes. The Hatch Act prohibits employees from soliciting, accepting, or receiving political contributions at all times. Thus, even when an employee is off duty and away from the workplace, he may not fundraise for a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group. For example, the Hatch Act prohibits an employee from sending or forwarding an e-mail that solicits political contributions, even when the employee is at home and off duty.​​

Q:Can I display a picture of a candidate for partisan political office in my workspace?

A:

Because section 7324 of the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity while on duty or in a federal building, the Act generally would prohibit employees from displaying pictures of candidates for partisan public office in the federal workplace. 5 C.F.R. § 734.306​, Example 16. However, we advise that an employee would not be prohibited from having a photograph of a candidate in his office if all of the following apply: the photograph was on display in advance of the election season; the employee is in the photograph with the candidate; and the photograph is a personal one (i.e., the employee has a personal relationship with the candidate and the photograph is taken at some kind of personal event or function, for example, a wedding, and not at a campaign event or some other type of partisan political event). Of course, an employee must not have a political purpose for displaying the photograph, namely, promoting or opposing a political party or a candidate for partisan political office.​​​

Q:May a federal employee who is a member of a union (i.e., federal labor organization) solicit or receive a political contribution?

A:

​Yes, in one limited circumstance.  Although the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from soliciting or receiving political contributions at any time, a federal employee who is a member of a union that has a political action committee (PAC) may solicit or receive a contribution from another member of the same union, as long as (1) the contribution is for the union PAC; (2) the other member is not a subordinate; and (3) the activity does not take place while the employee is on duty or in the federal workplace.

Q:Can I wear a partisan political button or T-shirt while I am at work or display such items in my office?

A:

No. Covered employees may not engage in political activity while on duty, in a government office or building, in uniform, or in a government vehicle. Wearing or displaying candidate, political party, or political group materials while on duty or in your work space qualifies as political activity. This prohibition extends to wearing or displaying such items in, for example, the cafeteria, lobby, or on-site gym of a federal building.​​

Q:Can I have a screen saver on my computer or a picture in my office with a political message (e.g., a campaign sign, campaign logo, etc.)?

A:

No. Covered employees may not engage in political activity while on duty, in a government office or building, in uniform, or in a government vehicle. Displaying campaign material qualifies as political activity.​​

Q:If I have a bumper sticker on my personal car, am I allowed to park the car in a government lot or garage, or in a private lot/garage if the government subsidizes my parking fees?

A:

Yes. An employee is allowed to park his or her privately owned vehicle with a bumper sticker in a government lot or garage. An employee may also park the car with a bumper sticker in a private lot or garage for which the employee receives a subsidy from his or her agency.​​

Q:Will I violate the Hatch Act if I listen to radio programs discussing partisan politics or candidates for partisan political office, or read a book about politics or political candidates while I am in the federal workplace?

A:

No. Some federal agencies allow employees to listen to the radio while they are at work. Merely listening to a radio program that is discussing politics while in the federal workplace, without more, is not a Hatch Act violation. Similarly, merely reading a book about politics or political candidates while in the federal workplace, without more, is not a Hatch Act violation. However, employees should make certain that the federal agency where they work does not have any internal policies prohibiting its employees from generally engaging in any of these activities while at work (i.e., listening to the radio, reading).​​​

Q:Is it a Hatch Act violation for a federal agency to have televisions in the federal workplace that are tuned to stations such as Fox News or MSNBC?

A:

No. Watching, or allowing the broadcast of, stations such as Fox News or MSNBC in the federal workplace, without more, does not violate the Hatch Act. Thus, while some federal agencies may have televisions located in lobbies or other public areas within a federal workplace that are tuned to such stations the Hatch Act does not prohibit them from doing so.​​

Q:Can a federal employee display in his office a photograph of his spouse or child even if the spouse or child is a candidate in an election for partisan political office?

A:

Yes. The Hatch Act does not prohibit a federal employee from displaying photographs of a spouse or child even if the spouse or child is currently running for partisan political office, provided the photograph is not a campaign photograph.​​

Q:What is a partisan political e-mail?

A:

A partisan political email is an email that is directed at the success or failure of a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race.​​

Q:May a federal employee—while on duty or in the workplace—receive a partisan political email?

A:

Yes. Simply receiving a partisan political email while at work, whether to a personal or government email account, without more, does not violate the Hatch Act. However, federal employees must not send or forward partisan political emails to others while on duty or in the workplace.​​

Q:May a federal employee—while on duty or in the workplace—forward a partisan political email from her government email account to her personal email account?

A:

Yes. If a federal employee receives a partisan political email in his government email account, she may send that email to her personal email account while at work. Simply forwarding such an email to one’s personal email account, without more, does not violate the Hatch Act.

Q:May a federal employee—while on duty or in the workplace—send or forward a partisan political email from his government email account or his personal email account to others?

A:

No. A federal employee cannot send or forward a partisan political email from either his government email account or his personal email account (even using a personal device) while at work. 

Q:I am a union official who is given official time to perform representational duties. Am I still considered “on duty” for purposes of the Hatch Act during that time?

A:

Yes. Officials of labor organizations who have been given official time to perform representational duties are still considered to be "on duty" for purposes of the Hatch Act. Therefore, they may not engage in political activity while on official time to perform representational duties.​​

Q:Can federal agencies discipline their employees for violating an internal e-mail or computer policy even though OSC is also investigating the same activity for a Hatch Act violation?

A:

Yes. OSC has exclusive jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute complaints alleging a violation of the Hatch Act. 5 C.F.R. § 734.102. Thus, while a federal agency may discipline an employee for violating an internal policy, such action by the agency does not preclude OSC from also investigating and/or prosecuting the matter.​​​

Q:Is a Hatch Act investigation an administrative or criminal matter?

A:

A Hatch Act investigation is an administrative matter. Hatch Act matters are adjudicated before the Merit Systems Protection Board, which is an administrative agency. However, federal employees also should be aware that certain political activities may also be criminal offenses under title 18 of the U.S. Code. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 210, 211, 594, 595, 600, 601, 602, 603, 604, 605, 606, 607, 610.​​

Q:If a federal employee has listed his official title or position on Facebook, may he also complete the “political views” field?

A:

Yes. Simply identifying one’s political party affiliation on a social media profile, which also contains one’s official title or position, without more, is not an improper use of official authority.​

Q:What should a federal employee do if an individual posts or “tweets” a message soliciting political contributions to a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race, or a link to the political contribution page for such entities, on the employee’s social media page?

A:

Although the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from soliciting or receiving political contributions at any time, employees are not responsible for the statements of third parties, even when they appear on their social media page. Thus, if an individual posts a link to the political contribution page of a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race, or otherwise solicits political contributions, the employee need not take any action. The same advice applies to any “tweets” directed at the employee. However, the employee should not “like,” “share,” or “retweet” the solicitation, or respond in any way that would tend to encourage other readers to contribute. ​​​

Q:May a federal employee continue to “friend,” “like,” or “follow” an official social media page of a government official after he has become a candidate for reelection?

A:

Yes. For example, a federal employee may continue to “friend,” “like,” or “follow” the official Facebook, Twitter, or other social media page of the President or Member of Congress, even after the President or Member begins his reelection campaign.

Q:May a federal employee use an alias to “friend,” “like,” or “follow” the social media page of a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race?

A:

Yes, but be advised that federal employees remain subject to the Hatch Act even when they act under an alias. Therefore, the advice provided in response to other questions applies regardless of whether or not the employee is acting under an alias. ​​​​

Q:May a federal employee use a Facebook or Twitter account in his official capacity to engage in political activity?

A:

No. Any social media account created in a federal employee’s official capacity should be limited to official business matters and remain politically neutral. Any political activity must be confined to the employee’s personal Facebook or Twitter account, subject to the limitations described in other related questions.​​​

Q:May a federal employee—while on duty or in the workplace—send or forward an email about currents events or matters of public interest to others?

A:

​The Hatch Act does not prohibit federal employees from engaging in non-partisan political activities. Accordingly, employees may express their opinions about current events and matters of public interest at work so long as their actions are not considered political activity. For example, employees are free to express their views and take action as individual citizens on such questions as referendum matters, changes in municipal ordinances, constitutional amendments, pending legislation or other matters of public interest, like issues involving highways, schools, housing, and taxes. Of course, employees should be mindful of their agencies’ computer use policies prior to sending or forwarding any non-work related emails. 

Q:May a federal agency have a Facebook or Twitter account that includes information or links to information about a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race?

A:

No. A federal agency’s Facebook or Twitter account, like its official website, should be limited to official business matters and remain politically neutral. Thus, an agency’s social media account should not “friend,” “like,” “follow,” “tweet,” or “retweet” about a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race or link to the social media accounts of such entities.

Q:May a federal agency continue to “friend,” “like,” or “follow” an official social media page of a government official after he has become a candidate for reelection?

A:

Yes. For example, a federal agency may continue to “friend,” “like,” or “follow” the official Facebook, Twitter, or other social media page of the President or Member of Congress, even after the President or Member begins his reelection campaign.

Q:May a federal agency post a news article about the speech of an agency official (e.g., Secretary or Administrator) at a political event for a candidate in a partisan race on the agency’s Facebook or Twitter account?

A:

No. Any information or links to information about a federal agency official’s attendance or speech at a political event for a candidate in a partisan race should not be posted on the agency’s Facebook or Twitter account.​​

Q:May a Presidential appointee with Senate confirmation (PAS) ask a subordinate schedule C or non-career senior executive service appointee (or any other subordinate federal employee) to write a policy speech for the PAS to give at a partisan political event?

A:

No. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees, including PAS’s, from soliciting or accepting uncompensated volunteer services from an individual who is a subordinate. 5 C.F.R. §§ 734.302(b)(3)​, 734.303(d). Thus, the Act prohibits a supervisor from soliciting a subordinate employee to write a policy speech for the supervisor to give at a partisan political event. In addition, the Act prohibits a supervisor from accepting such a speech from a subordinate. The fact that the policy speech contains no partisan political advocacy is irrelevant. ​​​

Q:May a Presidential appointee with Senate confirmation (PAS) ask his executive assistant (or any other subordinate employee) to attend a political party meeting that the PAS is scheduled to attend but is now unable to do so?

A:

No. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees, including PAS’s, from soliciting or accepting uncompensated volunteer services for any political purpose from an individual who is a subordinate. 5 C.F.R. §§ 734.302(b)(3), 734.303(d). Thus, the Act prohibits a supervisor from asking subordinate employees to attend a political party meeting or any other partisan political event.​​

Q:When engaging in political activity (i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group), such as speaking at a political campaign event, may a Cabinet secretary use the title “Secretary?”

A:

No. Hatch Act regulation states that an employee may not use his or her official title while participating in political activity. 5 C.F.R. § 734.302(b)(1). Accordingly, a Cabinet secretary may not use the official title “Secretary” when engaging in political activity, such as speaking at a political campaign event. However, a Cabinet secretary may use a general form of address, such as “The Honorable,” when engaging in political activity, as such address does not identify his or her position. 5 C.F.R. § 734.302​, Example 1.​​

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