The presidential election isn’t until next year, but the off-year elections of just a few weeks ago and the debates featuring the broad field of candidates reminds us that politics knows no season. And those who work for the government, whether for the state of California or at the federal level, need to be particularly cautious to be sure they don’t violate work rules that could lead to disciplinary action.
This is particularly true in light of recent rules issued by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel concerning the proper use of social media outlets by federal workers. If you are a politically active federal employee, or just one of the millions of average people around the world actively participating in the social media environment — you need to be careful how and when you express your political opinion.
The OSC announcement follow what officials say has been a deluge of inquiries from employees about what they can and can’t do in the digital arena. And in the interest of sharing through our own particular digital platform, we offer this breakdown.
If you are on the job, bite your lip or your texting fingers about anything political. This includes no liking, tweeting, retweeting, friending, following, sharing or commenting on your chosen candidate says or does. If you are on a work break on the job you may engage in the political social media experience, but only if you are outside of the building.
If you’re in law enforcement or intelligence, it might be best to just keep all comments to yourself all the time.
The Hatch Act is the law that governs these kinds of things. The aim of the law is to limit the appearance of partisanship within the ranks of the federal workforce. But it doesn’t prohibit all political activity. So the new rules do allow workers to post photos or campaign logos of candidates on their personal social media accounts.
The Washington Post reports that the American Civil Liberties Union is critical of the rules — calling them an overreach of authority. Whether you agree or not, the rules are in place, so workers need to be attentive to possible repercussions.