Political Activity Ethics Violation
The Hatch act puts restrictions on the involvement of Federal employees in any partisan political activity. Political activities are considered any activities intended to ensure the failure or success of a particular partisan political group, political party, or partisan candidate. A person that violates the Hatch act may receive certain disciplinary actions, including removal from employment. The employees should make thorough consultations with the Department of Ethics before they engage in any political activity.
Three classes of employees exist under the current Hatch Act. First is the Administrative Appeal judges, Administrative Law Judges, Contract Appeal Board, Career Senior Executive, and employees of enforcement agencies and is particularly the group that is mostly restricted. The second class is the General Schedule, non-career Senior Executive, Senior-Level, Schedule C, and Professional or Scientific employees. It is a lesser restricted group. The last group is the presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed personnel that are subject to the special Act rules. In this class, less constriction is provided regarding when and where they can indulge in various political activities due to their all-day duty status. They may participate in political activities in a personal capacity.
The Hatch Act Rules state that no Federal employee should use their official authority to affect or interfere with election results. Some examples of prohibited activities include; using an official title to participate in political activity, using a person’s authority to coerce another person to indulge in political activity, and receiving or accepting uncompensated volunteer services from subordinated with political intent.
The rules also prohibit fundraising. A federal employee should never accept, receive, or solicit partisan political contribution regardless of being off duty. Examples are; liking or sharing posts related to fundraising on social media, asking for donations by email, mail, or social media, and hosting a fundraiser. The Hatch Rules prohibit Federal employees from engaging in political activities while on duty, in a government building, and wearing a government badge or uniform. An example is displaying candidate photographs, posters, or screen savers while at work.
The rules also state that a Federal employee should never display a bumper with a political sticker on their private vehicles and park them in Federal parking lots. Two bumper stickers of political candidates in different parties is not considered a violation of the Hatch Act. Privately owned vehicles used for official purposes should ensure the political stickers are covered while in use for official duties. Lastly, the rules restrict employees from running for public offices. Those that are considering vying for such positions should contact the Bureau Ethics Office to get proper guidance.
Federal employees must know the ethical considerations of leaving federal service. There are various restrictions which depend on if a person served at a senior level or not. The first is that once an employee leaves the federal service, they are prohibited from making any form of communication as a representative of the new employer on political parties that they were initially involved in. Example of such matters include; investigations, cases, contracts, claims, grants, or other matters that are focused on the previous party.
The post-employment law also restricts federal employees from making, with influence or intent any communication to another federal employee as a representative of the previous party on matters that were pending under their official responsibility. These two communication restrictions apply for a period of two years after one leaves the Government. They only apply to communication that seeks action of the Government but does not apply to the work that a person does behind the scenes which does not involve communication to the government.
The law also prohibits a person from giving specific types of assistance to other people concerning an ongoing treaty negotiation or trade even if the assistance is not associated with any contact with a Federal employee. Prohibitions are also made on profits that are earned if the money is as a result of government contact for example doing business with clients that the person had while still in government.
If a person was a senior federal employee, they should not make communication to the government as a representative of any other person until after a period of one year after their post as senior employees. It is a restriction that applies to matters that the concerned person seeks official action for example a new matter which was pending when the person was still in government. The law prohibits a former senior employee from advising, aiding or representing a foreign political party or government with intentions of influencing any employee or officer of the United States. The statute also states that a uniformed service retired member should not accept any form of compensation or employment from the government of a foreign country unless they obtain approval from the United States government to do so.
Bishara, N. D., & Westermann‐Behaylo, M. (2012). The Law and Ethics of Restrictions on an Employee’s Post‐Employment Mobility. American Business Law Journal, 49(1), 1-61.
Bratton, D., & Candy, V. (2013). Federal government ethics: Social media. International Journal of Management & Information Systems (IJMIS), 17(3), 175-184.
Brown, C., & Maskell, J. (2016). Hatch Act Restrictions on Federal Employees’ Political Activities in the Digital Age. Congressional Research Service.
Hannah, R. L. (2010). Post‐employment covenants in the United States: Legal framework and market behaviours. International Labour Review, 149(1), 107-119.