Hatch Act & Social Media

Hatch Act & Social Media

Hello, and welcome to one of several videos
about the ethics rules that apply to all Federal employees. I am Sarah Nechamen from the USDA Office of Ethics, and today I’ll be talking about how the Hatch Act relates to social media use. The Hatch Act restricts how Federal employees
can engage in political activities, and with social media at the tips of our fingers, it
is easier than ever to violate the Hatch Act accidentally. The wrong “like” or “retweet” could
put you in hot ethical waters– and could lead to severe consequences including suspension
or even termination. Let’s start by reviewing the Hatch Act itself. The Act has different restrictions for different
types of employees: In this video, we will be focusing on the
rules for less restricted employees, including Schedule C’s, GS and WG employees, and non-career
SES employees. Further restricted employees, including career
SES employees and Administrative Law Judges, have additional limitations and should watch
our video on The Hatch Act for Further Restricted Employees instead. In general, the Hatch Act prohibits political
activity while on duty, on Federal premises, or while using government property. It defines political activity as any activity
directed toward the success or failure of a partisan candidate, political party, or
partisan political group. Social media use is restricted by these same
rules. As a Federal employee, you cannot post political
messages while on duty, on Federal premises, or using government property. You also can’t like, share, or retweet someone
else’s political post under these circumstances. Let’s look at some examples. Example 1: You work in a Federal building
and you’re on your lunch break in the building cafeteria. While in the cafeteria,
you “like” your friend’s post on Facebook about how terrible the governor’s policies
are and how the candidate from the other political party is a much better choice. Because you’re on Federal property, and
you “liked” a partisan political post, you have just violated the Hatch Act. Example 2: you are teleworking from home and
work is slow, so you’re browsing Twitter with your government laptop. You see a tweet from Candidate Polinski, asking
for everyone’s support in her run for US Senate. You’ve always liked Candidate Polinski,
so you retweet it without a second thought. Again, you have violated the Hatch Act, because
even when you’re teleworking you are still on duty and may not retweet political messages. You were also using your government laptop,
which is government property, so even if you were off duty, you would still have violated
the Hatch Act. In addition to the bans on engaging in political
activity while on the clock or in the office, Federal employees are also subject to a 24/7
fundraising ban. You are never allowed to solicit or accept
donations for a partisan political candidate, political party, or political organization,
and you need to be especially careful of this when using social media. You may not post, like, or share any political
fundraising language on your social media account. Imagine that you’re on your personal phone
while at home and off duty, and you come across a candidate’s Facebook post about immigration. You know you agree with her views and you
share the post without reading all the way to the bottom, so you never saw the link to
the candidate’s donation page at the end of the post. Even though you are off duty and off Federal
premises, and even though you never saw the donation link, you have still violated the
Hatch Act by sharing the post. However this doesn’t mean that you need
to delete your social media accounts, or stop following politics and hide under a rock for
the rest of your Federal career. As a less restricted Federal employee, you
are well within your rights to post, like or share political messages when off duty,
off Federal premises, and using your personal phone or computer—so long as you don’t
include any fundraising. You can do these things even if your government
job is listed on your profile: nothing in the Hatch Act prohibits you from
listing yourself as a Federal employee as part of your social media profile. Just make sure you aren’t using your Federal
job to promote political posts, for example writing that “as a USDA employee,
I think Candidate X is best for farmers.” Additionally, if you are in charge of an official
USDA social media account, do not post any partisan political messages on the official
account and keep your personal account separate. You are also allowed to write, like, or share
messages relating to broad policy issues while off duty. The Hatch Act only applies to activity
related to partisan political candidates, groups, and parties. Political issues like immigration or foreign
policy are not covered under the Hatch Act. If you’re ever unsure if a social media
post, like, or share is prohibited by the Hatch Act, be sure to contact the Office of
Ethics first. We can walk you through the ethics analysis
and make sure you don’t lose your job over an errant tweet. Thank you for watching, and have a great day!


6 thoughts on “Hatch Act & Social Media”

  • This is good. We need to get folks off of their politics and back to working. Should have sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ blocked.

  • It's too bad they won't do anything about all the illegal food trucks here in Wellington Florida that mean if you have a Astro van or a Kia Soul you can sell tacos with absolutely no regulation you ask them for their license and they literally think that their driver's license is what you're asking for no hablo espanol sell you anything you want yum yum

  • What about people who secretly get a paycheck or funds from the CIA or some other branch of government – for example, Fake News or "celebrities" or NGOs and others funneling Federal resources to their "special interests"? What about the lobbying & propaganda etc THEY engage in and "authority" they abuse?

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