New Hatch Act Guidance May Unfairly Restrict Employee Speech

Press Release November 30, 2018

Washington D.C. – New restrictions on what federal employees are allowed to discuss at work could be applied in a way that unfairly inhibits the First Amendment rights of government workers, National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon said today.

“NTEU is concerned about the Office of Special Counsel’s latest Hatch Act guidance because its absolute ban on certain topics of discussion is inconsistent with the purposes of the Hatch Act,” Reardon said.

The Office of Special Counsel -- for the first time -- says any discussion of impeachment or the “resistance” is within the definition of political activity as it applies to President Trump.

“This guidance is a broad reach that employees may find confusing. It could unnecessarily have a chilling effect on employees’ First Amendment free speech,” Reardon said.

The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in activities aimed at the success or failure of partisan political candidates or parties.

“That prohibition has always been a fact-specific analysis in which the employee’s intent is relevant,” Reardon said. “This new guidance goes too far because it eliminates that critical factor.”

NTEU will carefully monitor how the new guidance is applied to federal employees.

NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.