Going political: Fast track to unemployment

People who say it is next to impossible to fire a federal worker should study — and then maybe rejoice in — the Hatch Act, a much-amended 1940s law designed...

People who say it is next to impossible to fire a federal worker should study — and then maybe rejoice in — the Hatch Act. It’s a much-amended 1940s law designed to keep career federal and postal workers from engaging in partisan political activity on the job.

While actual dismissals for Hatch Act violations are rare, they do happen. Take for instance the postal mail processing clerk fired earlier this month after lengthy appeals who ran for two partisan political offices in 2017.

Recently, the Office of Special Counsel announced an agreement with a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement employee who agreed to resign from her job and who cannot be considered for other federal employment for five years. The OSC said the employee admitted to posting more than 100 social media messages in 2016 in support of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton while on duty, as well as seeking votes from coworkers and inviting them to campaign rallies.

More often than not, Hatch Act infractions are punished by suspensions with or without pay ranging from three to 50 days. The OSC received 1,325 requests for advisory opinions in Hatch Act cases during FY 2017, which included the 2016 presidential campaign. They included:

  • An investigation of allegations that some U.S. Postal Service officials colluded with the National Association of Letter Carriers union to endorse and support certain union-endorsed candidates in 2016. While the OSC found no evidence for that charge, it identified systemic Hatch Act violations at USPS that resulted in an institutional bias in favor of “union-backed candidates and said the USPS allowed letter carriers to use ‘union official’ leave-without-pay — which was almost always granted — for campaign activities.” It also said a top USPS headquarters official “disseminated lists of participating letter carriers down to field office managers, who interpreted the communication as a directive to release the carriers, even on short-notice and despite operational concerns from local managers.”
  • A 10-day suspension without pay for a Secret Service employee who tweeted a dozen or more “partisan political messages during a three-month period while on duty and in the federal workplace.”
  • A 10-day suspension on a Veterans Affairs Department employee who admitted that 14 times over a seven-month period sending partisan political emails to coworkers at the VA.

Many federal and postal unions at their national level endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, with the exception of the National Border Patrol Council of the American Federation of Government Employees. The council endorsed then-GOP candidate Donald Trump, while AFGE leadership strongly backed Clinton.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

The first recorded use of roller skates was by an anonymous Dutchman in the 1700s. They were first used in a stage production in 1743 and in 1760 Joseph Merlin invented his own pair to wear to a  masquerade party. He rolled in playing a violin but could not easily stop and crashed into a mirror, thus breaking several bones.

Source: Science Museum

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