The standards of conduct provisions of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA), among other statutes, guarantee certain rights to Federal employees who exercise their statutory right to become a member of a union representing Federal employees. The provisions also impose certain responsibilities on officers of these unions to ensure union democracy, financial integrity, and transparency. The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) is the Federal agency with primary authority to enforce many standards of conduct provisions. If you need additional information, please contact OLMS at 1-866-4-USA-DOL FREE. If you suspect a violation of these rights or responsibilities, you should refer to your union’s constitution and bylaws for information on union procedures, timeliness, and remedies. Complaints may be filed with OLMS after exhaustion of reasonable internal union remedies. See 29 C.F.R. §§ 452.135, 458.54.
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Posted On: Aug 27, 2016
Feds must steer clear of social media links to partisan fundraisers
·Solicitation includes suggestions to make a donation ·Feds may not post contribution page links even when off duty or away from work ·Further restricted employees may not re-tweet posts from partisan campaigns
By Anjali Patel, Esq., cyberFEDS® Legal Editor Washington Bureau
DID YOU KNOW? To avoid inadvertent Hatch Actviolations, all federal employees must think twice before using social media to ensure they are not promoting a partisan political fundraiser.
The Hatch Act prohibits both further and less restricted federal employees from soliciting, accepting, or receiving political contributions. The prohibition also encompasses less direct ways of asking for political contributions, such as suggesting someone make a donation, according to the Office of Special Counsel.
OSC specifically instructs federal employees not to provide links to any partisan group or candidate's political contribution page. This seems simple enough, but employees can get in trouble if they even inadvertently post a link to a webpage that solicits contributions.
For example, it would violate the Hatch Act if an employee posted a link to a wine tasting so his Facebook friends would buy tickets but the event was a fundraiser for a specific candidate's presidential campaign.
OSC also advises employees not to like, share, or re-tweet partisan solicitation posts received on social media, such as an invitation to a political fundraising event. And even an after-the-event post about attending a political fundraiser could be a violation if the employee linked to a still active partisan contribution page.
Keep in mind this rule applies at any time and should not be confused with the prohibition against engaging in political activity while on duty or at the federal workplace. Employees may not post links to partisan contribution pages in any form, even while off duty or at home.
It's also important to remember that any type of hyperlink counts as a link, including email links, links on Facebook walls, or Twitter message links.
Permitted social media
Even though most activities involving partisan contribution page links are prohibited, the Hatch Act does allow employees to accept an invitation to political fundraising events via Facebook or Twitter, according to OSC.
Federal employees also may express their opinions about a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race, such as by posting, liking, sharing, and tweeting on their social media pages. However, they may not do so while on duty, at a federal workplace, wearing official insignia or apparel, or using a government vehicle.
While expressing political opinions on social media, employees must also take care not to use their official positions to bolster their statements, nor direct their statements toward subordinates.
Less restricted employees may post a link to the website of a partisan party, candidate, or campaign, but only if the link does not lead directly to a contribution page.
Further restricted employees may not post links to partisan pages, or share or re-tweet posts from a partisan political campaign or group's social media accounts.
If employees don't pay attention to the Hatch Act, they could face severe penalties, an OSC investigation, and even the possibility of an action in front of the Merit Systems Protection Board.
An OSC investigation into a potential violation raises the possibility of a reprimand, suspension, reduction in grade, removal, debarment from federal employment for up to five years, or civil penalty not exceeding $1,000.
For example, OSC recently brought an action in front of the MSPB against a GS-15 Commerce Department employee for inviting more than 100 people to an annual political party fundraiser and directing them to send him a check if interested. The employee had already asked for and received guidance from a senior ethics official, who advised him not to solicit contributions at any time or engage in political activity while at work. The employee also sent several emails, while on duty, to support the Montgomery County Republican Party and to assist candidates running in state and local elections in his role as an official of the party.
In another case, a Federal Election Commission attorney admitted to posting dozens of partisan political tweets, many of which solicited campaign contributions to partisan political campaigns, including President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign. The employee settled with OSC agreeing to resign and a two-year debarment from federal service.