Employment and Labor
The Hatch Act of 1939 (Hatch Act), is a federal law that prohibits civilian federal government employees of the Executive Branch from engaging in certain political activity such as influencing elections, participating in or managing political campaigns, holding public office or running for office as a member of a political party. The Hatch Act was intended to prohibit civil servants from engaging in partisan political activity. The Hatch Act is applied significantly to curtail political activities by federal employees and supervisors while on duty.
In addition, the Hatch Act can also apply to certain state, local or District of Columbia government employees whose principal employment is in connection with an activity that is financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants. The Hatch Act was recently amended in legislation as the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 (HAMA), permitting other state and local employees, even if they are otherwise covered by Hatch Act restrictions, to be free under federal law to run for partisan office unless the employee’s salaries are paid for completely by federal loans or grants. The HAMA was signed into law in December 2012.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) generally investigates Hatch Act violations. If the Hatch Act violation is not egregious enough to warrant prosecution, the OSC may issue a letter of warning to the employee involved. If the OSC charges an employee with a Hatch Act violation, the charges are filed with and adjudicated before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). In addition, after investigating an alleged Hatch Act violation, the OSC may seek disciplinary action against an employee before the MSPB. Effective January 27, 2013, the penalties for federal government employees can include removal from federal service, reduction in grade, debarment from federal employment for a period not to exceed five (5) years, suspension, reprimand, or a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000.
If you have been charged with an alleged Hatch Act violation, please contact Berry & Berry, PLLC to schedule a consultation with an attorney to discuss assistance with preparing for an OSC investigation or interview, filing an answer with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) in response to the OSC’s complaint proposing disciplinary action, or in regard to representation before the MSPB.