Political Activity

Political Activity and the Federal Employee

The Hatch Act

The Hatch Act limits certain political activities of Federal employees both on and off duty. (Members of the Senior Executive Service, are subject to further restrictions and should contact the General Counsel's office for additional guidance.) Violations of the Hatch Act may result in disciplinary action, up to and including removal.

The term "political activity" means doing something in active support of or opposition to a political party, a candidate for partisan political office (e.g., President, senator, representative, state or local legislature or office), or a partisan political group (e.g., "Historians for Smith").

Examples of political activity that would violate the Hatch Act if done while on duty or using Government property include:

  • circulating a candidate's nominating petition within your office;
  • using the PC in your office after work to produce a brochure in support of a candidate's campaign;
  • sending e-mail invitations to campaign events to friends within the agency;
  • and using Government Internet connections to forward e-mail messages received from a partisan campaign or someone supporting a partisan candidate.

Permissible political activity under the Hatch Act would include:

  • voting for the candidates of your choice;
  • expressing opinions about candidates and issues;
  • assisting in voter registration drives.

Permitted and Prohibited Activities For Employees Who May Engage in Partisan Political Management and Campaigns

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.
    • 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 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.

Employees May...

  • 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.

The "Permitted and Prohibited Activities for Most Federal Employees” fact sheet provides a basic overview of permissible and prohibited political activities.

Employees should not rely on the opinions of friends or co-workers when they have questions with regard to a specific political activity. Ignorance of the law does not excuse an employee's violation of the Hatch Act. Reliance on incorrect or unofficial information also does not excuse a violation.

Telework

Teleworking away from the traditional office is considered “while on duty.” From whatever location an employee teleworks, that site constitutes his or her place of duty for that particular workday. If employees are teleworking from home or another site, they are on duty and may not engage in political activities in their home or elsewhere while they are on duty. 

Employees participating in virtual work-related conferences are subject to the same on duty Hatch Act restrictions as when they attend meetings or communicate in person with others at work. For example, employees may not wear a campaign t-shirt or hat while participating in a work-related video conference call, and they must ensure that any partisan materials, like campaign signs or candidate pictures, are not visible to others during the call.

Employees may use their personal computer or personal mobile phone to engage in partisan political activity after they finish teleworking for the day. However, employees may not use their government computer or government mobile phone to engage in any political activity on or off duty.

For more information, review the Hatch Act Advisory for Teleworking Employees.

Social media

The Hatch Act prohibition on engaging in political activities while on duty or in a government office applies to all social media and other online activities. 

Employees are prohibited from posting, blogging, retweeting, and liking partisan political content while on duty. While it is not a Hatch Act violation to receive a partisan political email while on duty, it is a violation to forward or share political email while on duty, in a government office, or with others from a government email address. 

When off duty, an employee may advocate for or against a political party or candidate on social media or through other online activities. While engaging in these activities employees may not solicit contributions on social media, through other online activities, or in person. Fundraising is a 24/7 prohibition whether on duty or off duty and applies regardless of the technology used whether it be personal or government devices.

For more information, review the Hatch Act Guidance on Social Media or the Hatch Act Social Media Quick Guide.

* 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))).