Stay Safe this Election Season: A Hatch Act Primer

Categories: The Insider

During election season, it's understandable for federal employees to be nervous about political activities. The Hatch Act, a federal law that limits what you can do while at work, wearing a government uniform, or in a government vehicle, may seem complex and hard to understand. 

However, as a federal employee, you are allowed to express your political views when you are not on duty.   

The first thing you can do is ensure that AFGE has your personal, home email address and phone number. Visit this page to update your information.

Visit this page to update your information.

Here's what you can and cannot do under the Hatch Act:  

SAFE ACTIVITIES WHILE AT WORK: 

  • Talk with your co-workers about legislative and agency issues like pay, working conditions, contracting out, and personnel reform.  
  • Invite all employees, AFGE members, and potential members to a meeting at work to discuss issues affecting them. Then, sign up new members. 
  • Post fliers about issues important to federal employees on bulletin boards. 
  • Hold a rally, set up a picket line, or hold a press conference on federal employee issues. These are not Hatch Act violations, but you may want to check other regulations limiting these types of activities that may apply to your agency.  

SAFE ACTIVITIES WHEN NOT AT WORK*:

*When you’re off-duty, of- site, not in uniform, and not using government equipment or systems 

  • Contact your elected officials to educate them about federal employee issues. 
  • Display a bumper sticker on your personal vehicle 
  • Attend a candidate rally 
  • Put a candidate sign in your backyard or windows 
  • Express your opinion about a candidate, participate in a phone bank, or go door-to-door (canvass) for votes for a candidate 
  • Send political materials of your choice to AFGE members at their home address or home email 
  • Conduct a voter registration drive while not on government property 
  • If you have questions about political fundraising, visit the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) website.

NEVER SAFE FOR WORK OR HOME: 

  • Engage in political activity for a candidate while on duty, in a government office, in uniform, or while using a government vehicle 
  • Use government computers or government email systems to campaign for or against a candidate 
  • Use government computers to distribute election-related news or information. 
  • Wear a candidate’s button to work 
  • Use your agency business cards or official government job title when engaging in political activity 
  • Host a fundraising event or stand up at a fundraiser and ask people to contribute to a candidate. 
  • Ask for or accept contributions to a political party or candidate 
  • Send out a personal appeal asking others to donate money to a party or a partisan candidate 
  •  Forward an email with an appeal from a social media website like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat 

How to tell if you're looking at restricted material from AFGE: 

  • For the most part, the AFGE National website is SAFE to view from government equipment on government time. 
  • If you enter an UNSAFE area of the website that contains political or legislative action information or requests, you will see one of these two warnings: 

    • Political:

    • Legislative:

Restricted AFGE Email Content:

  • If you see this warning screen and are on government equipment, property, or time exit the webpage or navigate to a safe part of the website. 
  • AFGE National will not send political or legislative action requests to government email addresses 
  • AFGE National will only send political or legislative action requests to personal, home email addresses 
  • Emails with political or legislative action requests will have this warning also.

For more information on the Hatch Act, visit the OSC website.


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