Although they backed different candidates, both were found to have violated the Hatch Act.
In leftover business from the 2016 presidential campaign, the Office of Special Counsel on Thursday announced it had reached settlements with two Postal Service employees—with contrasting political leanings—who violated the Hatch Act.
The workers, based in Ashtabula, Ohio, will both take suspensions without pay, one for 30 days and the other for 60 days, OSC announced.
In the first case, the worker brought presidential campaign signs created by his union into the workplace. The plan was to distribute them to other union members, but supervisors instructed him not to do so. “Nonetheless, he announced during a morning staff meeting that the union had endorsed the candidate, and he had signs in his workspace for anyone who was interested,” OSC said.
The next day, all the workers in the Ashtabula office received a briefing on compliance with the Hatch Act. But a second worker—who backed a different (unspecified) candidate—filmed himself inside his postal vehicle and posted the video to Facebook, OSC reported. “In it, he identified himself as a postal employee, criticized the presidential candidate whom the union had endorsed, and praised the candidate he supported.”
The video ended with him saying, “I don’t care about this Hatch law. If I lose my job, so be it. But I want my country back.” A subsequent OSC investigation uncovered other messages he had posted while on duty that either supported or opposed a presidential candidate.
That case netted a 60-day suspension.
Such misconduct during the 2016 election prompted the U.S. Postal Service to change its policy that allowed union employees to take unpaid time off to engage in political activity after an independent investigation found the agency engaged in “systemic violations” of the Hatch Act that led to an “institutional bias” in favor of certain candidates.
Postmaster General Megan Brennan announced the changes in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing last July, which followed an inspector general’s report that found USPS spent $90,000 on overtime to cover for employees who took time off to campaign in advance of the 2016 election.
In a statement, the Postal Service said, “The U.S. Postal Service has cooperated with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the Merit Systems Protection Board in connection with these cases. The Postal Service regularly reminds employees of the rules established by the Hatch Act that prohibits federal workers, including Postal Service employees, from engaging in some political activities to ensure programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion.”
This story was updated with comment from the Postal Service.
Image via Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock.com.