October 30, 2014 --
Civilian employees should keep in mind the rules limiting their participation in political activity, which are spelled out in the Hatch Act.
Military members are likewise limited in their participation under Department of Defense Directive 1344.10.
The Hatch Act, a federal law passed in 1939, limits certain political activities of federal civilian employees, as well as some states, Washington D.C., and local government employees who work in connection with federally-funded programs.
The law’s purposes are to ensure that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace and to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation, according to the www.osc.gov website.
The DoD directive was issued to ensure that military members avoid inferences that their political activities imply or appear to imply official military sponsorship, approval or endorsement of a particular party, issue, or candidate.
The Hatch Act and the DoD directive allow federal employees (including both civilian employees and military members) to engage in some political activities, such as voting and assisting in non-partisan voter registration drives.
Federal employees can also contribute money to political campaigns, political parties and political groups so long as the contribution is not done aboard the installation, in uniform or under circumstances that might create the appearance of an official endorsement by the federal employer. Federal employees are also allowed to attend political rallies, but military members are not allowed to participate in any way other than just attending and they may not attend in uniform.
Federal employees are permitted to express personal opinions about a particular candidate, party or issue, but they may not do so while on duty, in any federal building or vehicle, or when in uniform. Federal employees may place a partisan political bumper sticker of ordinary size on their personal vehicles, but may not place large stickers, banners or placards.
Individuals who reside off the installation are permitted to place campaign signs in their yards so long as the placement does not create an appearance of official military endorsement. Federal employees are prohibited from soliciting or receiving political contributions under any circumstances.
With social media being main stream in today’s society, additional guidance has been published by the Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency responsible for ensuring federal employees comply with political activity restrictions.
Federal employees may express personal views on political candidates through personal social media under certain conditions.
Employees must not post their political views or engage in any partisan political activity on personal social media while on duty or in a federal building or vehicle, and if the media platform from which they are posting identifies them as
Department of Defense employees, the posting must clearly state the views expressed are personal and are not of the Department of Defense.
Federal employees are permitted to “follow,” “friend” or “like” a political party or candidate running for office. Military members are not authorized to post links, “share” or “re-tweet” from the pages of political candidates or parties.
Civilians are authorized to do so, but should use extreme caution as these links may contain imbedded solicitations or links to make political contributions, which is prohibited for federal employees.
Military members are also prohibited from performing any clerical or other duties for a partisan political committee or candidate during a campaign, on an election day, or after an election day during the process of closing out a campaign.
For additional information pertaining to the Hatch Act, civilian employees should contact Tracey Madsen at 229-639-7368 and military personnel should contact Maj. Aiden Wilkie at 229-639-7117 for more information about limitations under the DoD directive.