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Political activity do's & don'ts reminder

  • Published
  • By Capt. Maaysa Ouza
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Legal Office

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.--The First Amendment protects and preserves several basic liberties, to include the right to exercise free speech and the right to peaceably assemble. 

It is DoD policy to encourage active duty members to carry out their rights and responsibilities of citizenship. While on active duty, however, members are prohibited from engaging in certain political activities (i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group) in order to maintain good order and discipline and to avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of improper endorsement in political matters.

Additionally, as discussions occur in the workplace, we want to provide a reminder of the pertinent laws and requirements under both DoDI 1325.06 and the Hatch Act.

Can we still discuss the ongoing crisis?

  • Yes!  Discussions can and should be had.  Discussions about race relations are not partisan, and therefore may take place in the workplace. However, prior to discussions taking place, it is recommended that employees be reminded of the requirements of the Hatch Act and that the discussions remain non-partisan.
  • But… If the conversation moves into partisan territory, we recommend that the conversation be redirected or reframed such that it is no longer political in nature. 

Servicemembers are reminded that both DoDI 1325.06 and AFI 51-508 stipulate that military members are prohibited from participating in demonstrations or similar activities:

  • While on duty;
  • When in a foreign country;
  • When in uniform;
  • When their activities constitute a breach of law and order; or
  • If violence is likely to result

May I attend a peaceful protest?

Yes. You may attend a peaceful protest so long as you conform to the above limitations and comply with state and local laws as they relate to the current public health emergency restrictions.

May I donate to a non-partisan political campaign or cause?

Yes. You may donate money, sign petitions, and express your personal opinion when you are off-duty and not in an official capacity.

May I fundraise to a partisan political campaign or cause?

No. You may not fundraise or solicit support for a partisan campaign or cause.

May I engage in partisan political activity on social media?

It depends. You may express personal views on public issues or political candidates (disclaimer may be required).  Keep in mind that while you "may," always do your due diligence to also ask yourself "should I post or like this?"  You may not engage in social media activities in the work place, on duty, or using government resources.  Remember, this includes while teleworking. Additionally, you may not like, retweet, share or forward invitations to partisan events or fundraisers (much like distributing campaign material).

May I attend a partisan political rally?

Yes. You may attend as a mere spectator when you are off-duty and not in an official capacity. However, you may not participate in a partisan political rally while in both civilian clothing and military uniform. Participation includes marching, speaking, or displaying political signs at a demonstration or rally.

What is the Hatch Act and who does it cover?

The Hatch Act covers federal civilian employees, including part-time employees.  The Hatch Act limits certain political activities of federal employees. Namely, employees are prohibited from engaging in political activity while on duty (including on social media, emails, or other forms of communication), in any federal room or building, while wearing a uniform or official insignia, or using any federally owned or leased vehicle. With COVID-19 causing many employees to work from home, it is important to remember that these rules still apply.

My supervisor, a GS-13 employee, sent me partisan political material via Facebook messenger. Is this acceptable? 

No. Federal civilian employees may not send partisan political material to subordinates.

May a federal civilian employee engage in partisan political activity on social media?

It depends. You may express your personal opinion about a partisan political activity by posting, liking, sharing, or tweeting so long as you are not in the workplace or on duty. Remember, this includes while teleworking. A disclaimer may be required if your social media profile refers to your official title or position. You may not use a social media account designated for official purposes to post or share messages directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate, or group; this is to prevent the appearance of DoD approval or endorsement of a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.

What happens if a Federal employee violates the Hatch Act?

Federal employees who violate the Hatch Act may be subject to the following penalties: removal from federal service, reduction in grade, debarment from federal employment for a period not to exceed 5 years, suspension, reprimand, or a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000. Violations of the Hatch Act may be reported by anyone, are investigated by the Office of Special Counsel, and adjudicated by the Merit System Protection Board. 

 

For questions, you are encouraged to contact the Scott Air Force Base Legal Office using their organization box email at 375amw.ja-legaloffice@us.af.mil.