Wearing campaign shirts no longer violates Hatch Act, OSC says

Ed Andrieski/AP

Federal employees won’t violate the Hatch Act by wearing clothing or carrying items from presidential campaigns to work, but they still are prohibited by law from donning or displaying paraphernalia that directly support a political party or group, according to an advisory memo from the federal government’s independent investigative body.

Even though a president and vice president are not formally elected until after Electoral College votes are cast and counted in early January, federal employees who wear clothing with campaign materials in the office will not affect the outcome so such actions will no longer be considered “political activity,” the Office of Special Counsel said in its Nov. 7 memo.

“Such items will be prohibited by the act if and when a former presidential candidate, including a president or vice president, again becomes a candidate for election,” the OSC noted.

OSC also warned feds against wearing materials demonstrating support for a political party or group in the workplace. The office cited shirts with campaign slogans such as “Democrats for Obama” and “Republicans for Romney” as examples of prohibited items.

The 1939 Hatch Act restricts federal civil service employees in the executive branch from engaging in certain political activities, and OSC has had oversight of all possible violations. This election cycle had some incidents involving violations of the Hatch Act, including one by the Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
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