This column is written and sponsored by Alan Lescht and Associates, PC, an employment litigation firm in Washington, DC, that handles cases involving contract disputes, wage and hour issues, discrimination and retaliation, wrongful termination, whistleblower retaliation and security clearances.
Social media makes it easy for people to engage in politics and to voice their opinions about important issues. However, using social media to engage in political discourse may negatively impact your job.
What is the Hatch Act?
The Hatch Act is a federal law that applies to certain federal government employees, as well as some state and local government employees who work with programs that receive federal funding. The purpose of the Act is to prevent political coercion and discrimination and to ensure that government programs are carried out in a fair manner. The District of Columbia has its own Hatch Act that applies to DC government employees. Both the federal and DC laws restrict when and how affected employees can participate in political activity.
How does the Hatch Act affect me?
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel website provides guidance and answers to FAQs about the Hatch Act and social media. In general, employees should not engage in political activity while on duty, in the workplace or in their official capacity. Employees should also not solicit or accept political contributions.
The same restrictions don’t apply to all employees. Restrictions vary based on who the employee works for and his or her job duties and position. For example, if you are a “less restricted” employee under the Hatch Act, you may use your personal cell phone, from your home, during non-work hours, to tweet about the president’s stance on health care. However, the Hatch Act prohibits “further restricted” employees from ever sharing the social media post of a partisan group.
Are there restrictions on non-government employees?
Even if the Hatch Act doesn’t apply to you, it still provides useful guidance. Remember that most non-government employees are employed at-will, which means your employer can fire you for any reason or for no reason at all. Your employer may discipline you because of how you express your political beliefs.
For example, earlier this month, a government contractor made the news after she was fired for posting a photo of her flicking off President Trump’s motorcade. Although certain laws may prohibit political affiliation discrimination in the workplace, these laws don’t give you a free pass. Regardless of who you work for, make sure you are familiar with your employer’s rules and policies about social media use.
Do you need legal help?
If you or someone you know are facing discipline at work due to social media use or your political activity, contact Alan Lescht & Associates today to set up a consultation.
Call us today at (202) 463-6036, send us an email, or visit our website and blog. Our 13 attorneys have vast experience in all areas of employment law. Super Lawyers, Washingtonian, Newsweek, AVVO, and others have recognized us as a leading employment firm in DC.