Hatch Act Guidelines

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class David Phaff
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Service members and Department of Defense civilians represent not only themselves but also their respective service at all times. Their personal actions reflect on the branch they serve, and it's up to those members to follow the guidelines put in place by the Hatch Act. 

“We must uphold the deep trust that American citizens have in our military and federal workplaces to be nonpartisan and work purely for the betterment of the American public, regardless of our personal political affiliations,” said Maj. Peter Havern, 47th Flying Training Wing Staff Agencies judge advocate. “The law’s purposes are to ensure federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure federal employees advance based on merit and not based on political affiliation.”

This can be especially tricky while teleworking and online.

“With regards to social media, all Federal employees and service members should remember if you are in a federal building during a lunch break, you cannot use your personal computer or personal mobile phone to engage in political activity,” Havern said.  “Additionally, even while teleworking, Federal employees and service members are on duty and therefore cannot use their personal devices to participate in political activity.”

Members may use social media to promote or encourage others to vote without using official authority, express personal non-partisan views over personal social media, “Friend,” “like” or “follow” social media profiles of a political party, partisan candidate, or campaign group, while off duty.

On the other hand, members may NOT suggest that others “like,” “friend.” or follow partisan accounts.  They are also prohibited from posting, sharing, or linking to material from a partisan political party, group, or candidate even when off duty.

Regardless of the forum, It’s important to remember that political activity is defined as an activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.

Failing to follow the Hatch Act puts military members at risk for disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, up to and including a court-martial. Federal employees could also face disciplinary action consisting of removal, reduction in grade, suspension, or reprimand as well as up to a $1,000 fine.

“With the increase in home-based telework due to recent events and the Presidential election this year, there may be questions about political activity while teleworking.” said Havern. “The Hatch Act is a very complex law and involves nuanced analysis on fact-specific situations, when in doubt, call the legal office, it’s much easier (and less expensive) to stay out of trouble then get out of trouble.”

For more information, call the Legal Office: 830-298-5172.