This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Plaza America in Reston that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement, and private sector employee matters.
What is the Hatch Act?
The Hatch Act of 1939 (Hatch Act), 5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326, was enacted by Congress in an attempt to keep politics out of normal government operations. The Hatch Act is a federal law that prohibits civilian federal government employees of the Executive Branch from engaging in certain political activities, such as influencing elections, participating in or managing political campaigns, holding public office, or running for office as a member of a political party.
Purpose of the Hatch Act
The Hatch Act was intended to prohibit federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity that might influence normal government activities. Government authorities typically apply the Hatch Act when attempting 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 connected to an activity that is financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants.
The Hatch Act was amended through the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 (HAMA) to permit other state and local employees, even if they are otherwise covered by Hatch Act restrictions, to be generally free under federal law to run for partisan political office unless the employee’s salary is paid completely by federal loans or grants. HAMA was signed into law in December 2012. The most recent changes to the law are outlined in the OSC guidance on HAMA.
Who Enforces the Hatch Act?
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is typically the entity charged with investigating Hatch Act violations. First, a Hatch Act complaint is filed at the OSC. If a Hatch Act violation is found, but not egregious enough to warrant prosecution, the OSC may issue a letter of warning to the involved employee. 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. 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 years, suspension, reprimand, or a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000.
Our law firm represents and defends federal employees who are faced with alleged Hatch Act violations, require Hatch Act guidance or legal defense, or are subjected to illegal political discrimination in the federal workplace.
If you need assistance with an alleged Hatch Act violation, political discrimination, or other employment matter, please contact our office at (703) 668-0070 or at www.berrylegal.com to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BerryBerryPllc.