About FDA

The Hatch Act: Political Activity and the Federal Employee

Political Activity and the Federal Employee

In 1939, Congress approved landmark legislation known as the Hatch Act to limit the political activities of Federal employees, employees of the District of Columbia and certain employees of state and local governments. In 1993, legislation was passed that substantially amended the Hatch Act. The Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993 permit most Federal employees to take an active part in partisan political management and partisan political campaigns. While Federal employees are still prohibited from seeking public office in partisan elections, most employees are free to work, while off duty, on the partisan campaigns of the candidates of their choice.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) website serves as an extremely useful tool. Select "I am a Federal employee." Most FDA employees will select "II," i.e. "Less Restricted Employees."

"Further Restricted Employees" refers to persons employed under SES, ALJ, and several other higher-level employees.

Generally for less restricted employees, permitted and prohibited activities for employees who may engage in partisan activities are as follows:

Permitted Activities:

  • May be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections
  • May register and vote as they choose
  • May assist in voter registration drives
  • May express opinions about candidates and issues
  • May contribute money to political organizations
  • May attend political fundraising functions
  • May attend and be active at political rallies and meetings
  • May join and be an active member of a political party or club
  • May sign nominating petitions
  • May campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances
  • May campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections
  • May make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections
  • May distribute campaign literature in partisan elections
  • May hold office in political clubs or parties including serving as a delegate to a convention

Prohibited Activities:

  • May not use their official authority or influence to interfere with an election
  • May not solicit, accept or receive political contributions unless both individuals are members of the same Federal labor organization or employee organization and the one solicited is not a subordinate employee
  • May not knowingly solicit or discourage the political activity of any person who has business before the agency
  • May not engage in political activity while on duty
  • May not engage in political activity in any government office
  • May not engage in political activity while wearing an official uniform
  • May not engage in political activity while using a government vehicle
  • May not be candidates for public office in partisan elections
  • May not wear political buttons on duty

In addition, the law that restricts political activity of Federal and District of Columbia government employees can be found at Title 5, CFR, Parts 733 and 734 (See Related Links Below). For additional information on political activity (Hatch Act), please visit the Office of Special Counsel web page (See Related Links Below.)

In the Related Links section below, you can find a simple chart useful in analyzing permitted and forbidden political activity by Federal Government employees under the Hatch Act, and grassroots lobbying issues under the Anti-lobbying Act. Please take some time to review the chart and become familiar with the applicable provisions.

Also in Related Links are some practical guides for employees of the Department of Health and Human Services regarding political activity restrictions. The guides provide do's and don'ts for political activities during the campaign season.

Page Last Updated: 05/11/2017
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