Can a Federal Employee Be Fired for Tweeting About a Political Candidate?

By on November 13, 2015 in Human Resources with 152 Comments

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The Office of Special Counsel has released a list of frequently asked questions about the Hatch Act for federal workers in light of the upcoming election year.

The primary focus of the document is the use of social media by federal employees and the potential implications of violating the Hatch Act while doing so.

For instance, one question is, “May a federal employee engage in political activity on Facebook or Twitter?”

The answer, in short, is yes, but there are some caveats:

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)
  • 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

In addition to the extensive coverage of the acceptable uses of social media, the document also covers email and what federal employees may or may not do when using a government email address.

For instance, receiving a politically partisan email at work and forwarding it to a personal email address is not a Hatch Act violation, but sending a partisan email from a government email address to others is not allowed.

See the document below for the complete list of questions and their answers about Hatch Act violations as they pertain to social media and email use.

The Hatch Act: Frequently Asked Questions on Federal Employees and the Use of Social Media and Email

© 2016 Ian Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ian Smith.

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About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce. Ian also has a background in web development and does the technical work for the FedSmith.com web site and its sibling sites.

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