The world has gone social, with many spending free time checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and even LinkedIn. The average American spends two hours and three minutes per day on social media websites. While content creation is on the rise, our federal employment attorneys at The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC share how you can avoid being prosecuted for violating the Hatch Act or other conduct standards as a result of your social media presence.
There are a few best practices that we recommend to our clients.
Keep It Light-Hearted
Think about what you are comfortable posting online and tailor your content to that. Posting about your family, your interests, and even what you’re watching on television are all safe topics to post about online. When making a post, remember that you shouldn’t post anything that you would not want your employer or any future employers to see. Even if you have the most private settings on your account, you should always assume that any of your posts could be seen by your current or future employer.
Follow the OPM’s Social Media Policy
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has a social media policy for federal employees in the executive branch and their personal social media activities. Executive branch federal employees are required to follow the Standards of Ethical Conduct and must not post any content that could violate the Hatch Act.
We commonly see our clients make these mistakes when online.
Post About Your Job Online
While posting any work drama or specific parts of your job may be tempting, no one needs to know about that. Don’t share personal information about your agency, position, and most importantly, don’t share your security clearance status if applicable. All of this information should be kept to yourself as it can bring harsh consequences if caught.
Post About Political Topics
While it may be enticing to comment online about political activity, you really shouldn’t, as you can violate the Hatch Act. Any unsanctioned political activity, such as posting in support for a candidate in an election, commenting on policies, or any activity that may point that you vote a certain way or support a certain viewpoint can violate the Hatch Act.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t post about the little things. You can post the obligatory “I Voted” photo with your sticker at your precinct, but you cannot post or hint at who you voted for.
Post During Work Hours
While posting during work hours doesn’t seem like a bad thing, it can be viewed negatively by your federal employer. When you are on the clock at work, you shouldn’t be posting online because that takes away resources from your employer. Keep your social media activity saved for your lunch break or when you’re off the clock.
If you do have an account that will post during work hours for engagement purposes, schedule out your content through a scheduling program, such as Sprout Social or Hootsuite. If necessary, you may need to show that your posts are coming from a post-scheduling service rather than you actively posting during the workday.
Don’t Make Official Statements as if From Your Agency
Federal employees should never make official statements about their federal agency or position from their personal social media accounts. This violates the ethical code federal employees are held to during their employment.
Don’t Access Social Media With Work Equipment
Logging into your social media accounts for personal use on your work computer or any organization-provided equipment can be considered improper use of materials.
There are exceptions to this guideline, such as if your position requires you to post on social media for a position-related account or if you are a content creator for your agency. However, even with this exception, you should not log into your personal accounts unless it is absolutely necessary.
Award-Winning Federal Employment Attorneys
Our attorneys can understand that it may seem confusing when posting online as a federal employee. If you are concerned about your social media activity and how you may be vulnerable to discipline from your agency, our team of top-rated and award-winning attorneys at The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC are prepared to guide you through building a plan that works for you.
Do you have questions about your social media activity and how it can relate to your federal employment? Our attorneys can answer them for you. Call us at (202) 350-3881 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with our award-winning team.