General Information

The Hatch Act

Its early in the year and as another Election cycle is getting under way, Army Civilian Employees need to be mindful of restrictions in political activity, as defined in The Hatch Act.

Under the 1939 Hatch Act, federal employees, employees of the District of Columbia (D.C.) government, and certain state and local government employees faced significant restrictions on their ability to participate in political activities. Congress amended the Hatch Act in 1993 to permit more political activity by federal and D.C. government employees. (These amendments did not change the provisions applying to state and local employees.)

With the 1993 amendments, many federal employees (including Army civilian employees) are now permitted to take an active part in political management or in political campaigns. However, certain federal agencies and categories of employees continue to be subject to important restrictions on political activities (including partisan candidacy, solicitation of contributions, and on-duty political activity). The penalties for violating the Hatch Act restrictions are very severe. Most violations are subject to removal.

The U.S. Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) is responsible for enforcing the Hatch Act. The web site has a great deal of information on restrictions and on permissible activities. By law,the restrictions noted in the third paragraph above apply to classes of employees including career Senior Executive Service (SES) members, administrative law judges, members of board of contract appeals, and employees of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Further, by Department of Defense (DOD) policy, Presidential appointees confirmed by the Senate and non-career SES members may not engage in actions that could be interpreted as associating the DOD with any partisan political cause or issue. If you have questions concerning the appropriateness of certain activities you may contact the OSC directly at 1-800-85-HATCH(1-800-854-2824). For information about DOD restrictions on activity that could be interpreted as associating the DOD with partisan political causes, you may contact the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center or your local legal office.

  

Logo of the words Frequently Asked Questions



Q: Valerie is a new hire to the Navy. Before becoming a federal employee, Valerie had always been active in politics. She was recently selected to lead the fundraising efforts in her community for her party's presidential candidate. Can she do this?
A: No. The rules that govern the political activity of civilian employees are known as the Hatch Act. Under the Hatch Act, federal employees are not allowed to solicit and receive political contributions in a partisan election, but they may make them. Members of the military are not subject to the Hatch Act. However, restrictions regarding their political activity are governed by DOD Directive 1344.10. Like federal employees, members of the Armed Forces are not allowed to solicit and receive political contributions, but may make them.


Q: Eugene was recently promoted to an SES position from a GS-15. His neighbor, Joe, is running for re-election to Congress. Eugene did a wonderful job helping Joe get elected 2 years ago and Joe has asked Eugene to campaign for him this year. Can Eugene do this?
A: No. Members of the Senior Executive Service, as well as the military, are subjected to additional restrictions to which other civilian employees are not subjected. Some of these additional restrictions include:
  • Campaigning for or against candidates in partisan elections.
  • Distributing campaign material.
  • Organizing or managing political rallies or meetings.
  • Circulating nominating petitions.
  • Working to register voters.
  • Making campaign speeches for candidates.

Q: Sam, a GS-12 contract specialist, has just arrived to work after voting in his first presidential election. He is very excited about the race and wears his candidate's button at work. Is this permitted?
A: No. Federal employees (whether civilian or military) are not allowed to engage in partisan activity at work. This includes wearing political buttons on duty, or even displaying a campaign poster or bumper sticker in one's office. Federal employees would be allowed to wear political buttons off duty and off work premises. Military members cannot wear these buttons while in uniform.


Q: Louise is an employee at the Pentagon. She has never been interested in politics, but this year the presidential election has captured her interest. She has even gone so far as to put her candidate's bumper sticker on her car which she drives to work every day and parks in the garage. Must she remove the sticker?
A: No. The Hatch Act and DoD Instruction 1344.10 do not prohibit federal employees from displaying a bumper sticker on their private vehicle on Government spaces. However, the vehicle cannot be used to perform official functions.




NOTE: Part I below is a list of the "Do's and Don'ts" for all civilian employees. Additional restrictions for members of the SES are set forth in Part II below. DoD Directive 1344.10 provides guidelines on political activity for the military.

Part I. Permitted/Prohibited Activities For Civilian Employees (Non-SES).
These federal employees may -
  • Be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections.
  • 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 an active member of a political party or club
  • Sign nominating petitions.
  • Campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances.
  • Campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections.
  • Make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections.
  • Distribute campaign literature in partisan elections.
  • Hold office in political clubs or parties.
These federal employees may not -
  • Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election.
  • Solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before their agency
  • Solicit or receive political contributions (may be done in certain limited situations by federal labor or other employee organizations).
  • Be candidates for public office in partisan elections.
  • Engage in political activity while:
    • On duty.
    • In a government office.
    • Wearing an official uniform.
    • Using a government vehicle.
    • Wear partisan political buttons on duty.


Part II. Permitted/Prohibited Activities for Members of the SES.
These federal employees may -
  • Register and vote as they choose.
  • Assist in voter registration drives.
  • Express opinions about candidates and issues.
  • Participate in campaigns where none of the candidates represent a political party.
  • Contribute money to political organizations or attend political fundraising functions.
  • Attend political rallies and meetings.
  • Join political clubs or parties.
  • Sign nominating petitions.
  • Campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances.
These federal employees may not -
  • Be candidates for public office in partisan elections.
  • Campaign for or against a candidate or slate of candidates in partisan elections.
  • Make campaign speeches.
  • Collect contributions or sell tickets to political fund raising functions.
  • Distribute campaign material in partisan elections.
  • Organize or manage political rallies or meetings.
  • Hold office in political clubs or parties.
  • Circulate nominating petitions.
  • Work to register voters for one party only.
  • Wear political buttons at work.