AFGE Sues OSC Over Hatch Act Restrictions

AFGE has sued OSC over its latest Hatch Act guidance for federal employees.

The American Federation of Government Employees has sued the Office of Special Counsel over Hatch Act guidance it released late last year for federal employees.

FedSmith readers will remember the guidance; it drew a lot of attention because it warned federal employees that they could potentially violate the Hatch Act for using terms such as #Resist or “The Resistance.”

In light of the confusion and backlash the initial guidance memo caused, OSC issued follow up guidance in which it clarified the restrictions and said that they only applied to federal employees while on duty and not when off duty or outside of the federal workplace. One Congressman even demanded that OSC rescind the guidance, calling it a “radical departure from past guidance.”

So case closed after the OSC clarification? Apparently not.

AFGE sued OSC this week on grounds that it violates the First Amendment, demanding an injunction against the “draconian interpretation of the Hatch Act” as the case reads.

AFGE also said in the lawsuit that “the Office of Special Counsel’s directives chill federal employees from engaging in speech that is not only protected, but at the heart of the First Amendment.”

“This suit is about protecting federal employees from political retribution in the workplace,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “OSC’s vague, overbroad guidance creates an opening for managers and political appointees to go after career civil servants for politically-motivated reasons. In fact, the guidance is so broad, an employee could even be guilty of violations if they voice support for the president’s policies. It’s one more example of the ways this administration is eroding institutional norms and attacking merit protections for public employees.”

It will be interesting to see how the case fares in court or if it leads to any revisions on OSC’s Hatch Act guidance.

AFGE v. OSC 8:19-cv-02322-CBD

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.