Feds reminded to keep politics out of the office
Updated 7:57 a.m. ET
Federal workers, you've been warned: Don't do any politicking while on the clock.
The Office of Special Counsel -- an investigative agency primarily looking out for whistleblowers -- is reminding the rank and file to observe the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal workers from engaging in certain political activities.
Federal employees and political appointees may vote, run for office in nonpartisan elections, participate in voter registration drives, attend political rallies, give political speeches, attend political conventions or hold office in political clubs, according to the law. But they cannot do so while on duty and cannot use their position to influence the outcome of an election, solicit, accept or receive political contributions, wear campaign buttons on their uniforms or run for office in partisan elections. (In response to a question in the comments section -- they may use their personal vehicles for political purposes, but cannot use government-owned or issued vehicles for political purposes.)
On Tuesday OSC reminded federal workers of potentially serious consequences for by citing recent settlements with two federal workers who violated the law.
In the first case, a Bureau of Engraving and Printing employee forwarded several partisan e-mails to her subordinates, including two messages that sought political contributions. The BEP official thus used her position of authority to influence an election, tried to solicit campaign donations and engaged in political activity while on government property. The Merit Systems Protection Board, which reviews ethics violations, ordered the employee removed from her job.
In the second case, an Internal Revenue Service employee sent a fundraising e-mail to about four dozen recipients while on duty at her government office. The e-mail requested contributions for Barack Obama's presidential campaign and provided links to make contributions online. The IRS worker violated the Hatch Act's prohibition on political activity during office hours and while at the workplace and MSPB ordered the worker suspended for 120 days.
Plenty of rank and file federal workers may take time off in the coming days to participate in political activities organized by their unions, stand on street corners to wave signs or distribute political literature. But any worker who attempts to do so while on duty is likely to get caught.
Is the Hatch Act practical or too restrictive? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below
• Question of the Week: A new Post poll finds 52 percent of Americans believe federal workers are overpaid, and more than a third believe they're less qualified than private sector workers. But three out of four respondents who interacted with a federal employee said it was a positive experience. What do you think? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and please include your full name and hometown. We may use your comments in Friday's Post.
• Native American farmers settle with USDA for $760 million: The move resolves charges that for decades the department discriminated against them in loan programs.
• Shots fired at Pentagon building; officials search for clues: The shots were fired shortly before 5 a.m. Tuesday, shattering, but not penetrating, windows on the third and fourth floors.
FINANCIAL FRAUD ENFORCEMENT TASK FORCE:
• Task force probing whether banks broke federal laws during home seizures: They'll investigate possible criminal violations in connection with the national foreclosure crisis.
• Retired feds could see one-time Social Security bonus: They could receive an additional $250 retirement payment if Congress approves pending legislation this winter.
• OPM and unions tussle over employee appeal rights: They're butting heads over the appeal rights of four federal workers removed from their jobs.
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY:
• Right to photograph federal buildings upheld: The federal agency responsible for protecting federal facilities is reminding its security guards that the general public has the right to take photographs and shoot video outside buildings.
| October 20, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Eye Opener, Workplace Issues
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