Rules for political advocacy for teleworkers in question

Applying the Hatch Act to teleworkers is not as simple as it seems.

Applying the Hatch Act to telecommuting federal workers is stirring some discussion this year: While the leader of recent federal training session on the subject asserted that teleworker compliance is straightforward, others in a recent congressional hearing suggested some fine points may need to be clarified.

Under the Hatch Act of 1939, updated in 1993, federal employees are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity while on duty, while wearing an official uniform or while in a federal building or vehicle. The restrictions do not apply to activity after work hours.

Even though social media, blogs and other online community tools did not exist when the law was last revised, they fit into its structure. For example, a federal employee may “like” a political candidate’s Facebook page or retweet a candidate’s tweet after hours, but not while on duty. Intelligence and enforcement workers, and career executives, have more restrictions.

But now, the rise in telework is causing more people to ask questions about how the Hatch Act is applied to telecommuters, Leslie Gogan, attorney for the Hatch Act unit of the Office of Special Counsel, said in a training session published on Howto.gov on May 17. The webinar was sponsored by the Federal Web Managers Council and General Services Administration.

“We get a lot of questions about telecommuting,” Gogan said in the webinar.

But the basic rules still apply, she said. An employee's home does not become an official office or federal building when the employee teleworks, she said. However, telecommuting workers must be very strict about managing their on-duty and off-duty time and make a clear distinction between the two, Gogan added.

“Federal employees must be cognizant when they do telecommute of when they are on duty and when they are not on duty,” Gogan said. “They can only participate in political activity when they are off duty. So if you want to make a post to your timeline on Facebook, or if you want to send out a tweet advocating for or against a party or a candidate you have to do it when you are off duty.”

However, Carolyn Lerner, special counsel, said in a recent congressional hearing that Congress may want to add clarifying language to the Hatch Act to make it more explicit how it applies to teleworkers.

“The restriction on political activity can be confusing given technology-driven workplace developments not anticipated in 1993, when Congress last reformed the Hatch Act,” Lerner said at a May 16 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce, U.S. Postal Service and labor policy.

For example, while an employee homes do not meet the definition of federal workplace under the Hatch Act, there is confusion about the application of the “on-duty” political activity prohibition to the telework model, Lerner said.

“While extending the definition of the federal workplace to an employee’s home would be inappropriate, Congress may want to consider clarifying that the 'on-duty' political activity prohibition applies to an employee while teleworking,” Lerner said at the hearing.

Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Florida, who chairs the subcommittee, said an update to the Hatch Act is needed to reflect today’s workplaces.

“Comprehensive reform should, for example, adopt a definition of ‘federal workplace,’ that accounts for how federal employees communicate today – which is oftentimes out of the office, on the go, with personal electronic devices,” Ross said in his opening remarks at the hearing.



X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.