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Hatch Act

Hatch Act

Fed​eral Employees

All civilian employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the President and the Vice President, are covered by the provisions of the Hatch Act. Employees of the U. S. Postal Service are also covered by the Act. Part-time employees are covered by the Act. Federal and District of Columbia employees subject to the Hatch Act continue to be covered while on annual leave, sick leave, leave without pay, or furlough. However, employees who work on an occasional or irregular basis, or who are special government employees, as defined in title 18 U. S.C. § 202(a), are subject to the restrictions only when they are engaged in government business. Federal employees fall within two categories under the Hatch Act, Further Restricted and Less Restricted.

Further Restricted Em​ployees

Who Are You?

Certain federal executive branch employees are prohibited from engaging in partisan political management or partisan political campaigns; hence, these employees are Further Restricted under the Hatch Act. Generally, Further Restricted employees consist of employees in intelligence and enforcement-type agencies (except employees appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate). More specifically, Further Restricted employees include employees from the following agencies (or components) or in the following positions:

  • Federal Election Commission;
  • Election Assistance Commission;
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation;
  • Secret Service;
  • Central Intelligence Agency;
  • National Security Council;
  • National Security Agency;
  • Defense Intelligence Agency;
  • Merit Systems Protection Board;
  • Office of Special Counsel;
  • Office of Criminal Investigation of the Internal Revenue Service;
  • Office of Investigative Programs of the United States Customs Service;
  • Office of Law Enforcement of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms;
  • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency;
  • Office of the Director of National Intelligence;
  • Criminal Division of the Department of Justice;
  • National Security Division of the Department of Justice; as well as
  • Persons employed in positions described under Sections 3132(a)(4), 5372, 5372 (a), or 5372(b) of Title 5, United States Code, including:
    • Senior Executive Service [career positions described at 5 U.S.C. § 3132 (a)(4)]
    • Administrative Law Judges [positions described at 5 U.S.C. § 5372]
    • Contract Appeals Board Members [positions described at 5 U.S.C. § 5372 (a)]
    • Administrative Appeals Judges [positions described at 5 U.S.C. § 5372(b)]

Political Restrictions and Examples of Prohibited Activities

Further restricted federal employees are prohibited from taking an active part in partisan political management or partisan political campaigns. Specifically, these employees may not campaign for or against candidates or otherwise engage in political activity in concert with a political party, a candidate for partisan political office, or a partisan political group. Such employees:

  • May not be a candidate for nomination or election to public office in a partisan election.
  • May not take an active part in partisan political campaigns. For example:
    • May not campaign for or against a candidate or slate of candidates.
    • May not make campaign speeches or engage in other campaign activities to elect partisan candidates.
    • May not distribute campaign material in partisan elections.
    • May not circulate nominating petitions.
  • May not take an active part in partisan political management. For example:
    • May not hold office in political clubs or parties.
    • May not organize or manage political rallies or meetings.
    • May not assist in partisan voter registration drives.
  • May not use their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election. For example:
    • May not use their official titles or positions while engaged in political activity.
    • May not invite subordinate employees to political events or otherwise suggest to subordinates that they attend political events or undertake any partisan political activity.
  • May not solicit, accept or receive a donation or contribution for a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group. For example:
    • May not host a political fundraiser.
    • May not invite others to a political fundraiser.
    • May not collect contributions or sell tickets to political fundraising functions.
  • May not engage 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 – while the employee is on duty, in any federal room or building, while wearing a uniform or official insignia, or using any federally owned or leased vehicle. For example:
    • May not wear or display partisan political buttons, T-shirts, signs, or other items.
    • May not make political contributions to a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.
    • May not post a comment to a blog or a social media site that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.
    • May not use any e-mail account or social media to distribute, send or forward content that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.

Permitted Activities

As discussed, further restricted federal employees are prohibited from taking an active part in partisan political management or partisan political campaigns. Specifically, these employees may not campaign for or against candidates or otherwise engage in political activity in concert with a political party, a candidate for partisan political office, or a partisan political group. However, such employees, for example:

  • May register and vote as they choose.
  • May assist in nonpartisan voter registration drives.
  • May participate in campaigns where none of the candidates represent a political party.
  • May contribute money to political campaigns, political parties, or partisan political groups.
  • May attend political fundraising functions.
  • May attend political rallies and meetings.
  • May join political clubs or parties.
  • May sign nominating petitions.
  • May campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, or municipal ordinances.
  • May be a candidate for public office in a nonpartisan election.
  • May express opinions about candidates and issues. If the expression is political activity, however – i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group – then the expression is not permitted while the employee is on duty, in any federal room or building, while wearing a uniform or official insignia, or using any federally owned or leased vehicle.
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Less Restricted Employees

Who Are You?

Most federal executive branch employees (except those listed under Further Restricted Employees in tab 1) are considered Les​​s Restricted under the Hatch Act. These employees may take an active part in partisan political management or partisan political campaigns.

Less Restricted Employees – Political Restrictions and Prohibited Activities

Less restricted federal employees:

  • May not use their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election. For example:
    • May not use their official titles or positions while engaged in political activity.
    • May not invite subordinate employees to political events or otherwise suggest to subordinates that they attend political events or undertake any partisan political activity.
  • May not solicit, accept or receive a donation or contribution for a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group. For example:
    • May not host a political fundraiser.
    • May not collect contributions or sell tickets to political fundraising functions.*
  • May not be candidates for public office in partisan political elections.
  • May not knowingly solicit or discourage the participation in any political activity of anyone who has business pending before their employing office.
  • May not engage 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 – while the employee is on duty, in any federal room or building, while wearing a uniform or official insignia, or using any federally owned or leased vehicle. For example:
    • May not distribute campaign materials or items.
    • May not display campaign materials or items.
    • May not perform campaign related chores.
    • May not wear or display partisan political buttons, T-shirts, signs, or other items.
    • May not make political contributions to a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.
    • May not post a comment to a blog or a social media site that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.
    • May not use any e-mail account or social media to distribute, send, or forward content that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.

* Soliciting, accepting, or receiving such donations or contributions may be done so long as the person being solicited is: 1) a member of the same federal labor organization as defined under section 7103(4) of this title or a federal employee organization which as of the date of enactment of the Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993 had a multicandidate political committee (as defined under section 315(a)(4) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 441a(a)(4))); 2) not a subordinate employee; and 3) the solicitation is for a contribution to the multicandidate political committee (as defined under section 315(a)(4)of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 441a(a)(4))) of such federal labor organization as defined under section 7103(4) of this title or a federal employee organization which as of the date of the enactment of the Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993 had a multicandidate political committee (as defined under section 315(a)(4)of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2) U.S.C. 441a(a)(4))).

Less Restricted Employees – Permitted Activities

Less restricted federal employees may engage in partisan political management and campaigns. Such employees, for example:

  • May be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections.
  • May register and vote as they choose.
  • May assist in voter registration drives.
  • May contribute money to political campaigns, political parties, or partisan political groups.
  • May attend political fundraising functions.
  • May attend and be active at political rallies and meetings.
  • May join and be an active member of political clubs or parties.
  • May hold office in political clubs or parties.
  • May sign and circulate nominating petitions.
  • May campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, or municipal ordinances.
  • May campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections.
  • May make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections.
  • May distribute campaign literature in partisan elections.
  • May volunteer to work on a partisan political campaign.
  • May express opinions about candidates and issues. If the expression is political activity, however – i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group – then the expression is not permitted while the employee is on duty, in any federal room or building, while wearing a uniform or official insignia, or using any federally owned or leased vehicle.
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Penalties

On December 19, 2012, Congress passed the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 (the Act). The Act modifies the penalty structure for violations of the Hatch Act by federal employees. The changes became effective on January 27, 2013. Under the modified penalty structure, an employee who violates the Hatch Act is subject to a range of disciplinary actions. This includes removal from federal service, reduction in grade, debarment from federal employment for a period not to exceed 5 years, suspension, reprimand, or a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000. (Before enactment of these amendments, an employee was subject to removal, or in some cases, a suspension of no less than 30 days for Hatch Act violations). The modified penalty structure applies to violations that occurred before, on, or after January 27, 2013, unless OSC has already initiated a complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board as of that date, or an employee has already entered into a settlement agreement with OSC.

​F​AQs

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

A:

Q:May federal employees express their views about current events, policy issues, and matters of public interest at work or on duty?

A:
Generally, all federal employees may discuss current events, policy issues, and matters of public interest at work or on duty. The Hatch Act does not prohibit employees at any time, including when they are at work or on duty, from expressing their personal opinions about events, issues, or matters, such as healthcare reform, gun control, abortion, immigration, federal hiring freeze, etc.  For example, while at work employees may express their views about healthcare reform, e.g., “I agree with healthcare reform.”
 
However, the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees at work or on duty from engaging in political activity. Political activity is activity that is directed at the success or failure of a political party, partisan political group, or candidate for partisan political office.  Thus, employees may not express their personal opinions on such events, issues, and matters if such views also are political activity.  For example, while at work employees may not express their views about healthcare reform tied to a candidate for partisan political office, e.g., “If you disagree with healthcare reform you should support candidate X.”   
 
Finally, even when federal employees are expressing personal opinions that are permissible under the Hatch Act they should be mindful of how such views may be received by their coworkers and whether such comments are consistent with the Hatch Act’s underlying purpose of maintaining a politically neutral workplace.

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.

​​​

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.​​

Sample Advisory Opinions

Report Title

Format

2017-02-07 Guidance on President Trump’s Status as a Candidate and Its Effect on Activity in the Federal Workplace
pdf document
2016-11-9 Wearing or Displaying Partisan Items in the Federal Workplace after Election Day
pdf document
2015-11-24 The Hatch Act and Further Restricted Employees’ Use of Social Media
pdf document
2015-08-06 Federal Employee Participation as Campaign Treasurer
pdf document
2014-04-29 FAA Aviation Medical Examiners are not subject to the Hatch Act
pdf document
2013-08-08 Personal Services Contractors may be covered by the Hatch Act
pdf document
2012-11-07 Displaying Partisan Items in the Federal Workplace after Election Day
pdf document
2012-04-04 Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Social Media and the Hatch Act
pdf document
2012-03-30 Employees of the American Red Cross are not covered by the Hatch Act
pdf document
2011-10-06 Political Briefings in the Federal Workplace
pdf document
2011-10-06 Mixed Travel by Presidential Appointees with Senate Confirmation (PAS)
pdf document
2011-07-06 Further restricted employee may not volunteer, at the request of a campaign, to house campaign workers
pdf document
2011-04-05 OSC’s Latest Guidance Regarding Pictures of President Obama in the Federal Workplace Now That He Is Officially a Candidate for Reelection
pdf document
2011-02-14 Soliciting Volunteers for a Voter Protection Team
pdf document
2010-11-08 Seeking and Accepting a Judicial Appointment
pdf document
2010-05-06 Temporary Seasonal Employees Under a 1039 Appointment
pdf document
2010-04-01 Assisting a Spouse’s Campaign
pdf document
2010-03-10 Serving on a Redistricting Commission
pdf document
2010-02-19 Employees who have “Without Compensation” appointments with the VA are covered by the Hatch Act
pdf document
2009-11-18 When does a nonpartisan election become partisan for purposes of the Hatch Act?
pdf document
2009-08-21 An election in which candidates can cross-file is a partisan election
pdf document
2009-07-20 Federal Employee’s Spouse Hosting Fundraiser in the Home (see page 3 of opinion)
pdf document
2009-06-17 When Does Candidacy Begin for Purposes of the Hatch Act?
pdf document
2009-03-12 Employees of Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac are not covered by the Hatch Act
pdf document
2008-12-04 Employees of DC Charter Schools Are Not Covered by the Hatch Act
pdf document
2008-10-29 Canvassing residents of Government Housing Units
pdf document
2008-09-18 Employees of the National Disaster Medical System, Disaster Mortuary Operation Response Team (DMORT)
pdf document
2008-07-22 DC Board of Zoning Adjustment and Hatch Act coverage
pdf document
2008-05-02 Miscellaneous (e.g., bumper stickers, candidate photographs, social networks, agency news clips, use of official title)
pdf document
2008-03-18 Example of E-mail that Constitutes Prohibited Political Activity
pdf document
2008-01-25 Fundraising for an organization that has a Political Action Committee
pdf document
2007-12-12 Candidacy in a nonpartisan election and fundraising for such candidacy
pdf document
2007-02-08 Federal employee on a temporary work assignment to an elected official’s office is still covered by the Hatch Act
pdf document
2007-01-29 Wearing an official uniform while driving a personal vehicle with a political bumper sticker
pdf document
2007-01-24 Contacting Members of Congress
pdf document
2006-09-05 Employees of Amtrak
pdf document
2006-08-16 Americorps Vista Volunteers
pdf document
2006-06-15 Members of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Reserve Corps Are Not Covered by the Hatch Act
pdf document
2006-04-27 Petitions for Ballot Initiatives
pdf document
2006-04-17 Stafford Act, Disaster Assistance Employees
pdf document
2005-08-05 Running or serving as chair of a partisan organization
pdf document
2005-05-12 Serving as election officials
pdf document
2004-10-15 Posting Candidates’ Positions on Issues in a Federal Building
pdf document
2004-09-01 Voter Registration Drives
pdf document
2005-04-13 Establishing or Holding Office Within a PAC
pdf document
2004-08-09 Candidate Visits to Federal Agencies
pdf documenthtm document
2004-05-25 Voter Registration Drives in the Workplace(2)
pdf documenthtm document
2004-05-03 D.C. Employee Serving as an Officer of a Campaign Committee
pdf documenthtm document
2004-04-14 Voter Registration Drives in the Workplace
pdf documenthtm document
2004-03-31 Soliciting funds to pay for party membership fees
pdf document
2003-03-18 Wearing Antiwar or Nonpartisan Buttons in the Workplace
pdf documenthtm document
2002-06-04 Running for Political Party Office
pdf documenthtm document
2002-04-30 Appointment to Public Office
pdf documenthtm document
2002-04-30 Candidacy in a Non Partisan Election
pdf documenthtm document
2002-01-18 Designated Localities and Independent Candidacy Transforms to a Partisan Candidacy
pdf documenthtm document
2001-06-27 Temporary, Part-Time and Emergency Employees
pdf documenthtm document
2001-04-23 Write-In Candidacy
pdf documenthtm document
2001-02-14 Retirement of campaign debt
pdf documenthtm document
2001-01-10 When does candidacy begin (2)
pdf documenthtm document
2000-07-19 Irregularly Scheduled Employee Running for Public Office
pdf documenthtm document
2000-02-25 Reimbursement of de minimis expenses for PAS employees
pdf documenthtm document
2000-02-11 Serving as an officer for an organization that has a PAC
pdf documenthtm document
1999-03-19 When does candidacy begin
pdf documenthtm document
1998-05-20 Candidacy in a partisan election
pdf documenthtm document
1997-12-17 Nonappropriated fund employees
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1997-11-25 Displaying political signs in federal housing
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1997-10-16 Further Restricted employee becoming a member of a partisan political group
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1996-07-08 Salary allotments
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Statute

Regulations

  • Political Activity - Federal Employee​​​s Resi​ding in Designated Localities 5 C.F.R. § 733
  • Political Activities of Federal Employees 5 C.F.R. § 7​​34
  • Subpart A – General Provisions 5 C.F.R. § 734
  • Subpart B – Permitted Activities 5 C.F.R. § 734
  • Subpart C – Prohibited Activities 5 C.F.R. § 734
  • Subpart D – Employees in Certain Agencies and Positions 5 CFR § 734
  • Subpart E – Special Provisions for Certain Presidential Appointees and Employees Paid From the Appropriations for the Executive Office of the President 5 CFR § 734
  • Subpart F – Employees Who Work on an Irregular of Occasional Basis 5 CFR § 734
  • Subpart G – Related Statutes and Executive Orders 5 CFR § 734​

State, D.C. or Local Employees

The Hatch Act restricts the political activity of individuals principally employed by state, District of Columbia, or local executive agencies and who work in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants. Usually, employment with a state, District of Columbia, or local agency constitutes the principal employment of the employee in question. However, when an employee holds two or more jobs, principal employment is generally deemed to be that job which accounts for the most work time and the most earned income.

Who is Covered/Who is Not Covered

Who Is Cov​ered

The following list offers examples of the types of programs which frequently receive financial assistance from the federal government: public health, public welfare, housing, urban renewal and area redevelopment, employment security, labor and industry training, public works, conservation, agricultural, civil defense, transportation, anti-poverty, and law enforcement programs.

Hatch Act provisions also apply to employees of private, nonprofit organizations that plan, develop and coordinate federal Head Start or Community Service Block Grant programs.

State, D.C., or local employees subject to the Hatch Act continue to be covered while on annual leave, sick leave, leave without pay, administrative leave or furlough.

Who Is Not Covered

Hatch Act provisions do not apply to:

  1. individuals who exercise no functions in connection with federally financed activities; or
  2. individuals employed by educational or research institutions, establishments, or agencies which are supported in whole or in part by state or political subdivisions thereof, the District of Columbia, or by recognized religious, philanthropic or cultural organizations (e.g., administrators, teachers).

The law also exempts certain specified employees from the prohibition on candidacy for elective office. These exemptions include:

  1. the governor or lieutenant governor of a state, or an individual authorized by law to act as governor;
  2. the mayor of a city;
  3. a duly elected head of an executive department of a state or municipality who is not classified under a state or municipal merit or civil service system; and
  4. an individual holding public elective office. This exemption applies only when the elective office is the position which would otherwise subject the employee to the restriction of the Hatch Act.

Political Activities and Examples of Prohibited Activities

Covered state, District of Columbia and local employees may not:

  • be candidates for public office in a partisan election; *
  • use official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election or nomination; or
  • directly or indirectly coerce, attempt to coerce, command, or advise a state, D.C., or local officer or employee to pay, lend, or contribute anything of value to a party, committee, organization, agency, or person for political purposes.

State, District of Columbia or local employees subject to the Hatch Act should note that an election is partisan if any candidate is to be nominated or elected as representing a political party, for example, the Democratic or Republican Party.

A note of caution - an employee’s conduct is also subject to the laws of the state and the regulations of the employing agency. Prohibitions of the Hatch Act are not affected by state, D.C., or local laws.

*On December 19, 2012, Congress passed the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 (the Act). The Act became effective on January 27, 2013. Now, only state, D.C., or local government employees whose salaries are paid for entirely by federal funds are prohibited from running for partisan office. All other state, D.C., and local employees, even if they are otherwise covered by Hatch Act restrictions are free under the Hatch Act to run for partisan office.

Examples of Permitted Activities

Employees may**, for example:

  • register and vote as they choose
  • assist in voter registration drives
  • express opinions about candidates and issues
  • contribute money to political organizations
  • attend political fundraising functions
  • attend and be active at political rallies and meetings
  • join and be active members of a political party or club
  • sign and circulate nominating petitions
  • campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments and/or municipal ordinances
  • campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections
  • make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections
  • distribute campaign literature in partisan elections
  • campaign for and hold office in political clubs or parties
  • volunteer to work on a partisan political campaign
  • participate in any activity not specifically prohibited by law or regulation

**While engaging in these activities employees must be acting in their personal capacity, not their official capacity. For example, they should not identify their official title when engaging in any of these activities.

A note of caution—an employee’s conduct is also subject to the laws of the state and the regulations of the employing agency. Prohibitions of the Hatch Act are not affected by state, D.C., or local laws.​

Penalties

If the Merit Systems Protection Board (“Board”) finds that an employee violated the Hatch Act and that the violation warr​ants dismissal from employment, the employing agency must either remove the employee or forfeit a portion of its federal assistance equal to two years salary of the employee. If within eighteen months of his removal, the employee becomes employed by a state, D.C., or local agency within the same state, then that agency, or the agency from which the employee was removed, may lose some of its federal funding.

​FA​Qs

Q:I do not apply for or administer any federal grants or loans at my agency, and I have no authority or discretion over the federal funding my agency receives, does that mean I am not subject to the Hatch Act?

A:

Not necessarily. An officer or employee of a state, D.C., or local agency is subject to the Hatch Act if, as a normal and foreseeable incident of his principal position or job, he performs duties in connection with an activity financed in whole or in part by federal funds. Coverage is not dependent on whether the employee actually administers the funds or has policy duties with respect to them. However, an employee may have other duties in connection with federally funded programs or activities, and thus may be covered by the Hatch Act, even though he does not apply for or administer federal loans or grants or have any authority or discretion over the federal funding.​​

Q:Can a state, D.C., or local employee be covered by the Hatch Act even if his/her salary is not federally funded?

A:

Yes, on questions of coercion or use of official authority (but not on the candidacy prohibition). The Merit Systems Protection Board has held that the test of whether an employee is covered by the Hatch Act is whether, as a normal and foreseeable incident of his principal employment, the employee performs duties in connection with an activity financed in whole or in part by federal funds. Special Counsel v. Gallagher, 44 M.S.P.R. 57, 61 (1990). If an employee meets this standard, the source of the employee’s salary is irrelevant. See Special Counsel v. Williams, 56 M.S.P.R. 277, 283-84 (1993), aff’d, Williams v. M.S.P.B., 55 F.3d 917 (4th Cir. 1995).​​

Q:If an agency receives federal grants or loans, are all employees of that agency covered by the Hatch Act?

A:

No, not necessarily. If an agency receives federal grants or loans, only those employees of the agency who, as a normal and foreseeable incident of their employment, perform duties in connection with activities financed in whole or in part by the federal grants or loans are subject to the Act.​​

Q:What is the education exemption and which employees fall within it?

A:

The Hatch Act exempts from coverage individuals who are principally employed by educational or research institutions, establishments, agencies or systems that are supported in whole or in part by a state or political subdivision thereof, or the D.C. All employees of these entities fall within the exemption (e.g., teacher, administrator, custodian, etc.).​​​

Q:I work for a nonprofit organization, am I covered by the Hatch Act?

A:

Maybe. The Hatch Act applies to employees of private, nonprofit organizations only if the statutes through which these organizations derive their federal funding contain a provision stating that the recipient organizations are deemed to be state, D.C. or local government agencies for purposes of the Hatch Act. To date, the statutes authorizing Head Start and Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) are the only statutes that contain such a provision. Accordingly, covered employees are those individuals at private nonprofit organizations who perform duties “in connection with” programs financed in whole or in part by Head Start or CSBG funds.​​​​​

Q:If I am covered by the Hatch Act, will taking a sabbatical or leave of absence allow me to be a candidate in a partisan election?

A:

No. If you are covered by the Hatch Act, taking a sabbatical or leave of absence will not allow you to be a candidate in a partisan election. State, local employees, and D.C. employees subject to the Hatch Act continue to be covered while on annual leave, sick leave, administrative leave, furlough, or any other paid or unpaid leave.​​

Q:What is a partisan election?

A:

The Hatch Act defines partisan as referring to a political party. 5 C.F.R. §151.101(h)​. Thus, under the Hatch Act, an election for public office is a partisan election if any candidate is running as a representative of, for instance, the Republican or Democratic Party. An employee whose salary is entirely federally funded may not be a candidate for public office in a partisan election. 5 U.S.C. §1502(a)(3)​.​​​​

Q:Can I run for public office if I file as both a Republican and a Democratic candidate?

A:

​No. An employee whose salary is entirely federally funded may not be a candidate for public office in a partisan election, i.e., an election in which any candidate represents, for example, the Republican or Democratic Party. A candidate who cross-files as both a Democrat and Republican is viewed as representing both parties. Therefore, an election in which candidates are permitted to cross-file is a partisan election under the Act.​​

Q:My local community is holding a special election to fill a vacancy for an elected office, does the Hatch Act apply to the special election?

A:

Yes. If the special election is partisan and your salary is entirely federally funded, you would be prohibited from being a candidate in such an election. ​​​

Q:I am covered by the Hatch Act restrictions on candidacy and I am running for office in a jurisdiction other than where I work. Is this still a violation of the Hatch Act?

A:

Yes. The Hatch Act's prohibitions on state, D.C., and local employees are applicable regardless of jurisdiction, or local population.​

Q:Can I be appointed to public office?

A:

Yes. The Hatch Act does not prohibit a covered employee from being appointed to a partisan political office. However, if the employee's salary is entirely federally funded, the employee would be prohibited from seeking election to that office.​​​

Q:If I hold a partisan elected office, does the Hatch Act prohibit me from accepting a position within state, D.C., or local government where my salary is entirely federally funded?

A:

No. While the Hatch Act prohibits a state, D.C., or local government employee whose salary is entirely federally funded from running for partisan public office, it does not prohibit the employee from holding partisan elective office. However, the Hatch Act would prohibit said employee while employed in a position that is entirely federally funded from seeking reelection or election to the partisan political office.

Q:Is an elected official (e.g., sheriff, mayor, etc.) who is covered by the Hatch Act prohibited from running for reelection?

A:

No, not if the elected office is the individual’s principal employment. The Hatch Act specifically exempts individuals who hold elective office from the prohibition against being a candidate for public office in a partisan election. 5 U.S.C. § 1502(c)(4)​. Please note, however, that this exemption applies only when the elective office is the position that would otherwise subject the employee to the restrictions of the Hatch Act. ​​​

Q:What is a nonpartisan election?

A:

The Hatch Act defines a nonpartisan election as "an election at 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. § 151.101(g); see also 5 U.S.C. § 1503​. 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:Is it okay for an elected official who is covered by the Hatch Act to ask subordinate employees to help with his reelection campaign?

A:

​No. While elected officials are exempt from the candidacy prohibition of the Hatch Act, they are still subject to the other two prohibitions – the prohibitions against using one’s official authority to affect the result of an election and directly or indirectly coercing a state, D.C. or local employee to make a political contribution. Because it is inherently coercive for a supervisor to ask a subordinate employee to contribute to a political cause, the Hatch Act would prohibit an elected official form asking subordinate employees to help or contribute to his reelection campaign.​

Q:I am a Hatch Act covered employee and a supervisor; can I ask my staff to volunteer for the governor’s campaign, or the campaign for any other elected official?

A:

No. As discussed above, it is inherently coercive for a supervisor to ask a subordinate employee to contribute to a political cause. Therefore, the Hatch Act would prohibit a supervisor from asking subordinates to volunteer for any partisan political campaign, political party, etc.​​​

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

A:

​No. Inviting subordinate employees to a political fundraiser would violate two provisions of the Hatch Act. First, inviting subordinate state or local employees to a political fundraiser would violate the Act’s prohibition against directly or indirectly coercing, attempting to coerce, or advising other employees to make a political contribution, 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 influence or authority 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. ​

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 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: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.​

Sample Advisory Opinions

Report Title

Format

2015-10-29 Signing or Asking Others to Sign a Letter of Support for Sheriff’s Reelection
pdf document
2014-08-14 Application of the Hatch Act to employees of private, nonprofit organizations
pdf document
2013-06-25 Advisory on Salary
pdf document
2013-09-17 Use of Official Title by State and Local Employees Who Are Now Permitted to Be Candidates in Partisan Elections
pdf document
2012-07-18 California’s Voter-Nominated Primary Elections are Presumptively Partisan for Purposes of the Hatch Act
pdf document
2012-02-29 Hatch Act does not prohibit elected sheriff from campaigning in uniform or while using his official title
pdf document
2008-07-31 Partisan election defined
pdf document

Statutes

Regulations

  • Political Activity of St​ate or Local Officers or Employees 5 C.F.R. § 151

Hatch Act Modernization Act Guidance for State and Local Employees

Congress Allows Most State and Local Public Employees to Run for Partisan Office

On December 19, 2012, Congress passed the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012. The Act allows most state and local government employees to run for partisan political office. Prior to this change, state and local government employees were prohibited from running for partisan office if they worked in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants. With the change, the federal Hatch Act no longer prohibits state and local government employees from running for partisan office unless the employee’s salary is paid for completely by federal loans or grants.

This change will allow hundreds of thousands of state and local government employees to participate more actively in the democratic process in their communities.

Before entering a race as a candidate, employees should keep in mind the following:

  • Make sure your salary is not completely funded by federal loans or grants. A very small number of state and local employees may continue to be prohibited from running for office by the federal Hatch Act. Before running for office, take steps to determine that your salary is not entirely -- 100% -- funded by federal loans or grants. Your state, D.C., or local finance office should be able to clarify whether your salary is completely funded by federal loans or grants.
  • Make sure state, D.C., or local law does not prohibit you from running. Employees should also make sure that they are not prohibited from running for office by state, D.C., or local law. Nearly every state, many localities, and the District of Columbia have ethics rules that govern the political activity of their employees. This includes, in some cases, the ability of employees to run for state, D.C., or local office. While the rules under the federal Hatch Act have been relaxed with regard to partisan candidacies, states and localities are free to implement more rigid requirements at their discretion. OSC does not keep a comprehensive list of state and local political activity laws, and OSC does not enforce laws passed at the state, D.C., or local level. Your state, D.C., or local ethics office should be able to clarify whether any provision of state, D.C., or local law prohibits you from running for office.
  • The Hatch Act restricts state, D.c., or local employees from engaging in political misconduct. The Hatch Act Modernization Act did not change the federal Hatch Act’s prohibitions on coercive conduct or misuse of official authority for partisan purposes. A state, D.C., or local employee is still covered by these prohibitions if the employee works in connection with a program financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants, even if the connection is relatively minor. A covered employee who runs for office would violate the Hatch Act if the employee:
    • uses federal or any other public funds to support his own candidacy;
    • uses his state, D.C., or local office to support his candidacy, including by using official email, stationery, office supplies, or other equipment or resources; or
    • asks subordinates to volunteer for his campaign or contribute to the campaign.

If you have questions about the Hatch Act or the Hatch Act Modernization Act, please call (800) 85-HATCH or (800) 854-2824, or write to hatchact@osc.gov.

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