180 Day Suspension for Hatch Act Violation

A NASA employee is hit with a suspension of 180 days as a result of violating the Hatch Act. With election season already upon us, and another five months to go before the election, federal employees need to think and understand restrictions on political activity before putting their careers in jeopardy.

it is just over five months until our national elections are held.

How many federal employees will find themselves in trouble for violating the Hatch Act as a result of partisan political activity during the election cycle?

One can only guess how many current federal employees will end up running into disciplinary or adverse problems as a result of the election but, based on past experience, there will be a number who get caught up in the excitement of a campaign and use their government facilities or engage in other activity that will lead to disciplinary or adverse action. Some of the violations will not be known until after the election but the investigations do not end on election day.

The Office of Special Counsel is already at work and one employee has already found himself subject to a suspension of 180 days. This suspension is for activity that occurred prior to the current election cycle. Obviously, these things can take awhile. This NASA employee was using his government email account and government computer to post partisan statements in support of a candidate for state office in 2006 and 2007.

He also made blog postings promoting campaigns of several candidates, including individuals running for governor and state representative.

The investigation also concluded that the employee solicited political contributions in violation of the Hatch Act. He posted to a blog an invitation to a fundraising event, soliciting a $20 contribution for a partisan political organization. He also posted a message on another blog, asking for contributions of ten dollars or more to support a candidate running for state representative.

For readers who think that federal employees do not get embroiled in investigations involving the Hatch Act, take a look at these articles from our site on this issue:

This is not an extensive list and we certainly have not covered all of these cases. But this should give readers an idea that they need to be careful when engaging in partisan political activity–regardless of the candidate you may be supporting.

“There was time when the Hatch Act was about wearing campaign buttons in the office, or engaging in political activity while on duty, wearing an official uniform, or in a government vehicle,” said Special Counsel Scott Bloch. “Today, modern office technology multiplies the opportunities for employees to abuse their positions and, as in this serious case, to be penalized, even removed from their job, with just a few clicks of a mouse.”

Be careful during election season–your federal career may be at stake.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47