The Hatch Act

The Hatch Act is a federal law that was passed in 1939 and is enforced by the Office of Special Counsel.

There are three main purposes of the law:

  • Ensure federal programs are administered in a non-partisan fashion;
  • Protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace;
  • Ensure that federal employees are evaluated on merit, not political affiliation.

As a postal worker, the Hatch Act applies to you. The Hatch Act regulates how you take part in partisan political activity. It is important to understand what you can and cannot do to be politically active.

Election Time FAQs

Can active postal workers volunteer as poll workers? Poll observers for a candidate?

Yes, active postal workers may volunteer as poll workers. This is a nonpartisan activity. Active postal workers who are not “at work” may serve as poll observers for a partisan political candidate.

Are you allowed to register other postal workers to vote while on break or at lunch (through the state, not a candidate or party)?

With regard to the Hatch Act, yes you can register co-workers because voter registration is a nonpartisan activity. Registering co-workers is covered by and potentially limited by other work rules.

Can I put bumper stickers on my car if I park on postal property?

Yes, under current OSC guidance you can have up to two partisan political bumper stickers on your personal vehicle that you park in a postal parking lot without violating the Hatch Act. You must cover the bumper stickers if you use your personal vehicle for official business.

Is a local allowed to mail voter registration forms to union members and spend union funds for the mailing?

Unions are not covered by the Hatch Act. Other laws apply to a union’s communication with its members on political matters and the use of general treasury funds. Using general treasury funds to mail voter registration forms to members is likely permitted.

May I wear a political shirt or button to work?

You may not wear a partisan political candidate or party shirt, button, hat, face mask, or sticker at work. This rule applies even if you do not interact with the public. Be mindful of partisan political accessories on sweaters and jackets.

May I volunteer for a candidate’s campaign?

You may not perform campaign activities while at work. You may not invite subordinate employees to political events. You may not solicit or receive a donation for a partisan political party or campaign. You may volunteer for a partisan political campaign. You may phone bank, distribute literature, make campaign speeches, and sign and circulate nominating petitions for partisan candidates.

May I donate money to a candidate?

You may not solicit, accept, or receive a contribution for a partisan political party, candidate, or group, including on social media. You may not host, sell tickets, or invite others to a political fundraiser. You may contribute money to political campaigns, political parties, or partisan political groups. You may attend political fundraisers, rallies, and meetings.

May I send political emails?

You may not send or forward partisan political content to others while you are at work, even from your personal account. You may not send emails that solicit contributions to partisan political candidates or groups at any time. You may send partisan political emails to others while you are not at work. You may receive a partisan political email while at work.

May I post political content on Social Media?

You may post, like, share, or retweet a message or comment in support of or opposition to a partisan political candidate or group while not at work. You may like, follow, or friend partisan political candidates or groups while not at work.

May I use a partisan campaign logo as my profile picture?

You may use a political campaign logo as your profile picture on a personal social media account, as long as you do not post, share, or retweet any content while at work. This restriction does not apply if you use a partisan campaign logo as your cover photo on Facebook or Twitter.

Permitted and Prohibited Activities

Information obtained from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel

Permitted Activities

  • May be candidates in non-partisan elections.
  • May register and vote as they choose.
  • May assist in voter registration drives.
  • May contribute money to partisan groups and candidates in partisan elections.
  • May attend political fundraisers.
  • May attend and be active at political rallies and meetings.
  • May join, be active, and hold office in partisan groups.
  • May sign and circulate nominating petitions.
  • May campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections.
  • May make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections.
  • May distribute campaign literature in partisan elections.
  • May campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, or municipal ordinances.
  • May express opinions about political issues.
  • May express opinions about partisan groups and candidates in partisan elections while not at work or using official authority.

Prohibited Activities

  • May not be candidates in partisan elections.
  • May not use official authority to interfere with an election or while engaged in political activity.
  • May not invite subordinate employees to political events or otherwise suggest that they engage in political activity.
  • May not knowingly solicit or discourage the political activity of any person with business before the agency.
  • May not solicit, accept, or receive political contributions (including hosting or inviting others to political fundraisers) unless both persons are members of the same federal labor or employee organization, the person solicited is not a subordinate employee, the solicitation is for a contribution to the organization’s political action committee, and the solicitation does not occur while on duty or in the workplace.
  • May not engage in political activity while on duty, in the workplace, wearing a uniform or official insignia, or in a government vehicle. For example:
    • May not wear, display, or distribute partisan materials or items.
    • May not perform campaign-related chores.
    • May not make political contributions.
    • May not use email or social media to engage in political activity.

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