Government Employees: The Hatch Act(s) and you

Know your rights!  If you are a government employee, you can participate in electoral politics.  You can legally involve yourself in many, or all, types of electoral politics depending on the government agency for which you work.

“Most federal employees may take an active part in partisan political management and partisan political campaigns.” —Office of Special Counsel, United States Government.

Many government employees are incorrectly told that they cannot engage in any political activity at, or outside, the workplace because of the Hatch Act.  Government offices and universities are often obsessed with avoiding “problems,” and their over-cautious pronouncements may infringe upon your rights as a citizen.  All  federal employees should read

The exact rules depend on if you are either a federal or state employee, and the kind of federal employee that you might be.  Also, some state employees that work on federal programs may have restrictions because of the Federal Hatch Act, but this is rather unusual.  Occasionally, employees of non-profits also fall under the Hatch Act if they are set up and funded by the government, but most non-profits face no such restrictions.

Federal Government Employee

If you are a federal employee, at the very minimum you are permitted by the Federal Hatch Act to engage in the below activities.  However, most federal employees have additional rights.

· register and vote for who you choose

· assist in voter registration drives

· express opinions about candidates and issues

· participate in campaigns where none of the candidates represent a political party

· contribute money to political organizations, candidates, and parties, or help organize, and attend political fund raising functions

· attend political rallies and meetings

· join political clubs or parties

· sign nominating petitions

· campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances


Additional rights: Unless you are an employee with certain federal agencies such as the FBI or FEC,  you are also allowed as a federal employee to . . .

· be a candidate for public office in nonpartisan elections

· attend political fundraising functions

· attend and be active at political rallies and meetings

· join and be an active member of a political party or club

· campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections

· make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections

· distribute campaign literature in partisan elections

· hold office in political clubs or parties

Restrictions:  For a list of restrictions that parallels the above lists of things that government employees can do, please read here.

State Government Employees

Some states have what are known as “little Hatch acts” that applies to the use of their state funds.  Consult your own state government for information on this

Also, some state employees that work in connection with federally funded programs fall under restrictions of the federal Hatch Act—please read here.

Employees of some non-profits

Occasionally, the employees of non-profits will also fall under the Hatch Act.   Non-profits that are authorized by federal statute to receive federal funds, e.g., Headstart and Community Service Block Grant statutes, may have restrictions upon their employees because of the Federal Hatch Act—please read here.

A caveat and additional information

While care has been taken to place accurate information in this diary, the information on this page is intended as a general guide and not as legal advice.  Federal employees should see this government web page on the Federal Hatch Act for more detailed, nuanced information.  Also, the Office of Special Counsel has a number of pamphlets for federal and certain state employees that are more detailed.  There is also a link to two slide presentations on these topics that can be downloaded.