Try these three tips if you’re worn out by all the political posts on your feeds.
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Federal employees who want to “resist” or “Make America Great Again” will have to keep it off social media while at work, if they want to keep their job.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel released guidelines for social media use in accordance with the Hatch Act on Tuesday. The guidelines detail what federal employees can and cannot post on social mediaduring and outside their work hours.
The Hatch Act is a federal law that prohibits federal government employees from engaging in specific types of political activity. Members of the federal government are under a microscope, and the Hatch Act is intended to ensure those in power don’t use their position to influence elections.
Who does the Hatch Act apply to?
From NASA workers to National Park rangers to ambassadors, members of all federal agencies, including heads of those respective agencies, are beholden to the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act does not, however, apply to the president or vice president, or the judicial and legislative branches of government.
“This office routinely receives questions from federal employees and the public about when social media use violates the Hatch Act,” Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner said in a media release. “With social media so accessible, employees want to know what political activity they can and can’t engage in on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites and stay clearly within the law.”
Retweets, likes, shares illegal
It is illegal to raise funds for a political campaign under the Hatch Act. That extends to retweeting, sharing, liking or clicking “favorite” on a tweet, Facebook post or Instagram picture. Federal employees are prohibited from doing this in both their professional and private lives.
They’re allowed to donate to candidates and causes, but can’t advocate that others do so.
The Office of Special Counsel announced Tuesday that a U.S. Postal Service worker has been suspended for 50 days without pay over a Hatch Act violation. The USPS worker shared over 100 partisan and political Facebook posts in the form of sharing posts that were pro-Bernie Sanders and anti-Donald Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton, according to the Office of Special Counsel.
A media release noted that the employee shared posts that implored voters to support Sanders in the Democratic presidential race and to contact Democratic super-delegates to request that they vote for Sanders.
“The employee also wore in and out of work for at least a week a USPS-logoed cardigan sweater with a Bernie Sanders campaign sticker on it. While at work, the employee draped the cardigan with the sticker on the back of a work chair, where it was visible to others,” said the Office of Special Counsel statement.
This all happened while the employee was on the clock.
On the clock vs. off
None of this is supposed to suggest that employees of the federal government can’t support candidates or political parties. But the new regulations are intended to keep such activities separate from employees’ public life.
The Office of Special Counsel detailed what is and isn’t acceptable in a Hatch Act Social Media Quick Guide.
When off the clock and outside of their place of work, employees can share on social media that they are attending fundraising events, as well as post in support or opposition of a political party. When on the clock or in a government building, employees should not post or share messages directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate in a partisan race or partisan political group.
Employees who work in intelligence and enforcement agencies face even more restrictions. They are prohibitedfrom sharing or retweeting posts from a political party, candidate or political group, according to the new guidelines.
Members of Trump’s administration get warnings
The Office of Special Counsel has issued warnings to two members of Trump’s administration since he took office.
White House Director of Social Media, Dan Scavino Jr., was issued a warning by the Office of Special Counsel after he tweeted in April 2017 that U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Michigan, should face a primary challenge.
Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, was also issued a warning in 2017 after she retweeted a tweet from the president. That tweet was an endorsement of then-candidate U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-South Carolina.
A warning is one of the lowest punishments an offender can receive, according to Office of Special Counsel spokesperson Jill Gerber. Several other punishments are noted on the office’s website.
“An employee who violates the Hatch Act is subject to a range of disciplinary actions, including removal from federal service, reduction in grade, debarment from federal service for a period not to exceed 5 years, suspension, letter of reprimand, or a civil penalty not to exceed $1000,” the website states.
Read the Office of Special Counsel’s social media quick guide
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