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What is the Hatch Act & Why Is It Important?

What is the Hatch Act & Why Is It Important?

One of the Prohibited Personnel Practices (PPP) as established by the United States Merit Systems Protection Board is coercing political activity. This PPP is heavily influenced by the Hatch Act, which was formed with the direct intent to keep biased political influence out of the political system of the federal government. In particular, the Hatch Act seeks to stop the creation of an “invincible and perhaps corrupt political machine.”

In order to accomplish this goal and keep our federal government fair and balanced, and beneficially bipartisan, the Hatch Act created a long list of what a federal employee, employer, or agent can and cannot do. Each item related in some form or another to a political position, candidate, activity, or campaign. It also states that a federal agent who violates the Hatch Act is subject to disciplinary action, including but not limited to paying steep fines and termination.

In order to help yourself understand the Hatch Act and avoid running into conflicts, review these important keynotes:

  • A covered federal employee may not:
    • Be a candidate to public office if it involves a partisan election.
    • Use any authority from their federal employment to attempt to affect the result of any election.
    • Discourage or encourage the political acts of a person with business pertaining to their agency.
    • Accept, give, or participate in donations, contributions, or fundraisers for a partisan political party.
    • Engage in any political activity while on duty or representing their federal employment agency in any way.
  • A covered federal employee may:
    • Become a candidate for public office in any nonpartisan election.
    • Register to vote or vote with allegiance to any political party.
    • Participate in voter registration drives.
    • Contribute to, promote, or participate in any nonpartisan political campaigns.
    • Express opinions or make statements about any politician or political matter, so long as it is not considered a political activity, while off-duty or not representing their federal employment agency.

In addition to these keynote “dos and do nots”, there are additional specifics of the Hatch Act that only apply to certain federal employees. If you have any questions regarding the Hatch Act and how it affects your personal rights, John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorney at Law and our DC federal employment lawyer can help you. Contact our firm today for more information and what you should do if you are accused of violating the Hatch Act.

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