What Political Activities Are Prohibited by the Hatch Act?


There is a high level of responsibility and accountability that comes with being a federal worker. This means specific laws and regulations apply to your job. One of these laws is the Hatch Act, which prohibits certain federal employees from participating in political activity. Whether intentional or not, a violation of the Hatch Act can put an end to your career. Therefore, understanding the law and the activities it prohibits will help you act judiciously to protect your career and your future.

What Is the Hatch Act?

The Hatch Act of 1939 is a federal law that prohibits certain federal employees from using their position to influence the outcomes of political campaigns. The purpose of the law is to prevent political coercion or advancement based on political affiliation in federal workplaces and to ensure the administration of nonpartisan federal programs.

The Hatch Act applies to federal employees in the executive branch and those employees at the D.C., state, and local levels who work with federally funded programs. The Act applies to both full-time and part-time employees. The law even applies to workers who are on any type of leave, including sick leave, annual leave, leave without pay, and furlough.

What Activities Are Prohibited by the Hatch Act?

Broadly speaking, under the Hatch Act, federal employees may not use their position of authority to influence the outcome of an election through the following activities:

  • Running for nomination or election in a partisan election
  • Participating in political activities while on duty, in uniform, or on government property
  • Encouraging or discouraging the political activities of others
  • Soliciting or accepting donations for political campaigns

There are many specific actions that fall under each of the aforementioned activities. It is not uncommon for federal employees to find themselves facing suspension or termination as a result of doing something unintentionally. Simple actions, such as forwarding an email that contains a request for a donation to a political campaign or inviting a coworker to attend a political event, are considered an attempt to influence the outcome of an election under the Hatch Act.

Penalties For Violating the Hatch Act

The Hatch Act is enforced by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), who is responsible for investigating these types of alleged violations. In cases of a minor violation, a letter of warning is simply provided to the employee. The OSC will file charges against the employee in more serious violation cases. The Merit Systems Protection Board then handles the case. Penalties that may be applied for violating the Hatch Act include:

  • Civil penalty of up to $1000
  • Suspension of not less than 30 days
  • Debarment from federal employment for up to five years
  • Reduction in pay and/or job grade
  • Termination

How the Vaughn Law Firm Can Help

If you are being investigated for an alleged Hatch Act violation, contacting a federal employment lawyer is in your best interest. The attorneys at the Vaughn Law Firm can help you understand your rights and advise you on your options. We understand how important your job is to you, and we are committed to protecting your career and your future in federal service.

We have sixteen years of combined experience in federal employment law. Our long list of positive case results reflects the extensive knowledge and skill we bring to the table. We are here to fight for the best possible outcome for you. Call us at 1-877-615-9495 to discuss your situation and find out how we can help you.