Does the Hatch Act apply to Postal Service employees?
Yes. The Hatch Act applies to Postal Service employees pursuant to 39 U.S.C. § 410(b)(1).
Are postal contractors covered by the Hatch Act?
No. However, the postal contract may contain specific restrictions that govern the contractor's conduct while performing services for the Postal Service. Contact the Contracting Officer for additional information.
What is a partisan election?
A partisan political election is one in which any candidate is affiliated with a political party. An election is partisan even if only one candidate represents a political party. The prohibition against being a candidate in a partisan election does not include running for an office or position within a political party or affiliated organization.
Could a Postal Service employee be a candidate in a partisan election?
No. However, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has designated specific localities in which Federal employees may be independent candidates in local partisan elections. These localities are places in which the majority of voters are Federal government employees or special circumstances exist such that it is in the domestic interest to permit Federal government employees to run for local partisan political office. OPM's list of designated localities can be found at 5 C.F.R. § 733.107.
Could a Postal Service employee run as an independent in a partisan election?
No. Only those Federal government employees residing in localities specifically designated by OPM may run as independents in local elections that are otherwise partisan.
Could an individual retain her elected position if she becomes a Postal Service employee?
Yes. Although the Hatch Act prohibits Postal Service employees from being candidates in partisan elections, it does not prohibit employees from holding partisan elective office. Thus, if an individual holds an elected office when he accepts employment with the Postal Service, he may serve out the remainder of his term. Likewise, an employee may be appointed to fill a vacancy in a partisan elective office. In both of these situations, however, the employee may not seek to retain the position by way of a partisan election.
What is a nonpartisan election?
A nonpartisan election is one in which none of the candidates represent a political party. 5 C.F.R. § 734.101. The Hatch Act does not prohibit Postal Service employees from being candidates in nonpartisan elections.
Could a Postal Service employee volunteer for someone's campaign?
Yes. Postal Service employees are permitted to participate in political activities to the extent not expressly prohibited by the Hatch Act. Examples of permitted activities include: initiating or circulating nominating petitions; canvassing votes in support of or in opposition to a partisan political candidate; endorsing a partisan political candidate; attending and being active at political rallies and meetings; distributing campaign literature; and taking an active part in managing a partisan candidate's political campaign.
Postal Service employees must be mindful that they may violate the Hatch Act if they engage in certain activities at the wrong time, in the wrong place, or in the wrong manner. For example, employees are prohibited from engaging in political activity while on duty, in a Federal or postal room or building, while wearing an official uniform or insignia, or while using a postal vehicle. Likewise, employees may not use their official authority or influence to interfere with the result of an election or to solicit, accept, or receive political contributions at any time.
Could a Postal Service employee hold party office?
Yes. While the Hatch Act prohibits a Postal Service employee from being a candidate for public office in a partisan election, the Hatch Act does not prohibit an employee from being a candidate for party office. Thus, an employee may run for and hold office within a political party.
Could a Postal Service employee put a campaign sign in his front yard?
Yes. An employee may place a sign or banner supporting a partisan political candidate in his or her front yard.
Could a Postal Service employee send or forward an email invitation to a political fundraising event to others?
No. The Hatch Act prohibits Postal Service employees from soliciting or receiving political contributions, which includes inviting individuals to political fundraising events at any time.
Could a Postal Service employee help organize a political fundraiser?
Although the Hatch Act would prohibit a Postal Service employee from hosting or serving as a point of contact for a political fundraiser, the employee is allowed to help organize a fundraiser. For example, the employee could stuff envelopes, set up tables for the event, select the menu, or hire entertainment. However, the employee must not personally solicit, accept, or receive political contributions.
Could a Postal Service employee’s spouse host a political fundraiser?
Yes. Hatch Act does not apply to spouses or family members who are not also Federal government employees or Postal Service employees. A Postal Service employee may assist his spouse with addressing envelopes, placing invitations in the mail, or cleaning or organizing the venue. An employee may even suggest names to his spouse to add to the invitation list; however, the suggested invitees must have a relationship with the spouse independent of the covered employee. For example, the employee may suggest a neighbor or church member who is known to both spouses. The employee may not suggest that his or her spouse invite his or her coworkers if his or her spouse does not know the coworkers well enough to personally invite them. Employees may not act or appear to act as the host of the event, by, for example, introducing any speakers or attendees.
May a Postal Service employee who is a member of a union (i.e., Federal labor organization) solicit or receive a political contribution?
Yes, in one limited circumstance. Although the Hatch Act prohibits Postal Service employees from soliciting or receiving political contributions at any time, an employee who is a member of a union that has a political action committee (PAC) may solicit or receive a contribution from another member of the same union, as long as the following criteria is met: (1) the contribution is for the union PAC; (2) the other member is not a subordinate employee; and (3) the activity does not take place while the employee is on duty or in the workplace.
Could a Postal Service employee personally donate to a partisan candidate, political party or partisan group?
Yes. A Postal Service employee may contribute to the campaign of a partisan candidate, to a political party, or to a partisan organization, provided the employee does not do so while on duty or in the workplace. An employee may not use postal property, such as a postal computer or postal mobile phone, to make the contribution.
Could a Postal Service employee wear clothing containing a partisan political image or slogan or political buttons to work?
No. Postal Service employees may not engage in political activity while on duty or in the workplace. This restriction prohibits employees from wearing partisan political buttons or apparel while on duty or in the workplace. It similarly prohibits employees from wearing face masks, face shields, gloves, or other personal protective equipment that feature, for example, a picture of a candidate for partisan political office, a campaign slogan, or the name or logo of a political party. This prohibition extends to wearing or displaying such items in, for example, the cafeteria, lobby, or on-site gym of a postal building.
Could a Postal Service employee display a picture of a candidate for partisan political office in her work space?
The Hatch Act generally would prohibit Postal Service employees from displaying pictures of candidates for partisan public office in the workplace. However, an employee would not be prohibited from having a photograph of a candidate in his office if all of the following criteria apply: (1) the photograph was on display in advance of the election season; (2) the employee is in the photograph with the candidate; (3) and the photograph is a personal one (i.e., the employee has a personal relationship with the candidate and the photograph is taken at some kind of personal event or function, for example, a wedding, and not at a campaign event or other partisan political event). Of course, an employee must not have a political purpose for displaying the photograph, namely, promoting or opposing a political party or a candidate for partisan political office. An employee may also display official photographs of a sitting President who is a candidate for reelection in the workplace. Official photographs include the traditional portrait of the President displayed in Federal buildings and photographs of the President conducting official business (e.g., meeting with heads of state). The official photographs must be displayed in a traditional size and manner and may not be altered in anyway (e.g., with the addition of halos or horns).
Could a Postal Service employee park his personal vehicle that displays a political bumper sticker in a lot owned or operated by the Postal Service?
Yes. An employee may park his or her privately owned vehicle with one standard sized bumper sticker per political candidate in a government lot or garage or in a private lot or garage for which the employee receives a subsidy from his or her agency. An employee must be careful not to display other partisan political materials, including bumper stickers, in such a way that the vehicle appears to be a campaign mobile.
Is a union official who has been given official time still “on duty” under the Hatch Act?
Yes. Officials of labor organizations who have been given official time to perform representational duties are still considered to be "on duty" for purposes of the Hatch Act. Therefore, they may not engage in political activity while on official time to perform representational duties.
May a Postal Service employee—while on duty or in the workplace—send or forward an email about currents events or matters of public interest to others?
The Hatch Act does not prohibit Postal Service employees from engaging in non-partisan political activities. Accordingly, employees may express their opinions about current events and matters of public interest at work as long as their expressions are not considered to be political activity. For example, employees are free to express their views and take action as individual citizens on such questions as referendum matters, changes in municipal ordinances, Constitutional amendments, pending legislation, or other matters of public interest, such as issues involving highways, schools, housing, and taxes. Postal Service employees should be mindful of the Postal Service’s computer use policies prior to sending or forwarding any non-work related emails. See Management Instruction EL-660-2009-10 (Limited Personal Use of Government Office Equipment and Information Technology).
If a Postal Service employee has listed his official title or position on Facebook, may he also complete the “political views” field?
Yes. Simply identifying one’s political party affiliation on a social media profile, which also contains one’s official title or position, without more, is not an improper use of official authority.
May a Postal Service employee engage in political activity on Facebook or Twitter?
Yes. Postal Service employees may express opinions about a partisan group or candidate in a partisan election (e.g., post, "like," "share," "tweet," "retweet"), but there are a few limitations. Specifically, the Hatch Act prohibits employees from:
- engaging in any political activity via Facebook or Twitter while on duty or in the workplace;
- referring to official title or position while engaged in political activity at any time (but see previous question regarding the inclusion of official title or position in a social media profile)
- suggesting or asking anyone to make political contributions at any time (A Postal Service employee should not provide links to the political contribution page of any partisan group or candidate in a partisan race. A Postal Service employee should not "like," "share," or "retweet" a solicitation from one of those entities, including an invitation to a political fundraising event. An employee, however, may accept an invitation to a political fundraising event from such entities via Facebook or Twitter.)
May a Postal Service employee display a political party or campaign logo or a candidate photograph as his profile picture on Facebook or Twitter?
Yes, but subject to limitations. A Postal Service employee could not post, “share,” “tweet,” or “retweet” any items on Facebook or Twitter while on duty or in the workplace as each action would show their support for a partisan group or candidate in a partisan election, even if the post, “share,” “tweet,” or “retweet” is unrelated to the partisan group or candidate.
May a Postal Service employee display a political party or campaign logo or candidate photograph as her cover or header photo on Facebook or Twitter?
Yes. Postal Service employees may display a political party or campaign logo or candidate photograph as their cover or header photo on their personal Facebook or Twitter accounts. This display, usually featured at the top of one’s social media profile, without more, is not improper political activity.
May a Postal Service employee use an alias to “friend,” “like,” or “follow” the social media page of a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race?
Yes, but please be advised that Postal Service employees remain subject to the Hatch Act even when they act under an alias. Therefore, the advice provided in previous questions applies regardless of whether the employee is acting under an alias.
May a Postal Service employee become a “friend,” “like,” or “follow” the social media page of a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race?
Yes, but not while on duty, on postal property, or using a postal computer, laptop, iPad, or mobile phone.
Gifts from Outside Sources
A gift is anything of monetary value. A gift includes any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance, service, or other item of monetary value.
Because the Postal Service serves the American public, each customer is a prohibited source. Postal vendors, contractors, suppliers, and business partners are also prohibited sources.
If the gift was offered because the employee works for the Postal Service, then the employee should not accept the gift unless an exception is applicable.
No. Accepting free lunch presents an appearance concern and sends the wrong message to other postal customers, vendors, and suppliers.
No. An employee is prohibited from accepting a gift that exceeds the $20 from an outside source, such as a contractor.
Contact the Ethics and Legal Compliance team (email@example.com) for assistance.
The following gifts would be prohibited:
- Cash or cash equivalents (money order, check, Visa or American Express gift card, etc.)
- A retail gift card with a value over $20.00
- Tickets to sporting events with a value over $20.00
- Any other item worth more than $20.00
The following gifts may be accepted from a customer:
- A greeting card
- A retail gift card valued at $20.00 or less
- Modest food items, such as a cup of coffee, donut, or an appetizer not offered as a part of a meal
- Any other non-cash item valued at $20 or less
Gifts Between Employees
A Postal Service employee could give her manager a noncash gift valued at $10 or less on a recurring occasion, such as a birthday.
Yes. The gifts provisions only apply to gifts given to a superior or higher paid employee. However, please be mindful of the perception of favoritism or special treatment amongst the team.
Yes. Employees may give a group gift on a special, infrequent occasion. Retirement is considered to be a special, infrequent occasion. A non-supervisory employee must organize the collection, so that employees do not feel coerced to participate or contribute. All communications must make it clear that participation is voluntary. Each employee may contribute the per-person cost of the meal charged by the caterer or restaurant. Each employee may contribute “up to $10” per person for a group gift for the manager. The cost of the lunch must appear on a separate line from the group gift language so that employees have the option of participating in one aspect of the retirement party.
If an employee would like to give an individual gift to a superior or higher paid employee for a special, infrequent occasion, then the employee may do so provided that the gift is appropriate to the occasion.
Yes. White elephant gift exchanges, where each participant brings a gift to be distributed at random, are permitted as long as participation is voluntary and the gifts are limited to $10 or less. Managers and supervisors may participate in such exchanges.
A covered relationship exists between the employee and any of the following:
- A person who lives in the employee’s household or relative with whom the employee has a close personal relationship
- The employer of the employee’s spouse, parent or dependent child
- Any person or company for which the employee served within the past 12 months as an officer, director, general partner, employee, consultant, contractor, etc.
- An organization, other than a political party in which the employee is an active participant
A Postmaster selects a cleaning company for a local buy contract to clean to the post office. The cleaning company hires the Postmaster’s sister to clean the post office. Because the Postmaster has a “covered relationship” with her sister, the Postmaster should not manage this local buy contract because the Postmaster may not fairly evaluate her sister’s performance under the contract. Instead, another manager should take over all responsibilities associated with the local buy contract.
An employee could write a letter of recommendation using his or her official title for an individual “based upon personal knowledge of the ability or character of an individual with whom he has dealt in the course of Federal employment or whom he or she is recommending for Federal employment.”
Yes. The Standards of Ethical Conduct require an employee to use postal equipment for authorized purposes. The Postal Service has a limited personal use policy that allows an employee limited use of postal property (computer, mobile phone, office phone, etc.) provided that the use causes minimal expense to the Postal Service, does not violate a statute or regulation, and does not interfere with postal business. See Management Instruction EL-660-2009-10 (Limited Personal Use of Government Office Equipment and Information Technology).
No. Postal time should not be spent on such activities, even if the employee used a personal mobile phone rather than a postal mobile phone.
No. Postal equipment may not be used for gambling, pyramid schemes, illegal drugs, outside business activities, or pornography.
No. Postal time may not be spent on a second job or an outside business. Likewise, postal equipment may not be used to perform work for a second job or outside employer.
No. This is a misuse of postal property.
No. This is a misuse of postal property.
Criminal Financial Conflicts of Interest
The covered financial interests are that of the employee, employee’s spouse and minor child(ren), employee’s general partner, an organization in which the employee serves as an officer, director, trustee, general partner or employee, or any organization with which the employee is negotiating for employment or has any arrangement concerning prospective employment.
A Postal Service employee owns $16,000 worth of stock in Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Inc. The employee then spearheads a postal initiative with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Inc.
Contact the Ethics and Legal Compliance team (firstname.lastname@example.org) for guidance before taking any action.
Yes. An employee may engage in an outside activity (whether paid or unpaid) if it does not interfere with the employee’s official duties. Please note that there are criminal statutes that would prohibit the employee from representing the nonprofit organization before the Federal government or the Postal Service regardless of whether the employee receives compensation from the nonprofit organization.
No. An employee may not accept compensation from any outside source for writing that relates to the employee’s official duties. An activity relates to an employee’s official duties if: (1) it is undertaken as part of the employee’s official duties, (2) the invitation to engage in the activity is extended because of the employee’s position rather than the employee’s expertise in the subject matter, (3) the invitation or offer of compensation is extended by someone with interests that may be affected substantially by an employee’s duties, or (4) the information conveyed is drawn from nonpublic information obtained through the employee’s government service. Because the employee wrote the article in her official capacity, she may not accept compensation from the publisher.
No. The only time an employee may engage in charitable fundraising in the workplace is through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). However, an employee may participate in charitable fundraising in a personal capacity provided that the employee: (1) is not on-duty or in the workplace, (2) does not solicit contributions from or sell items to subordinate employees, (3) does not solicit contributions from or sell items to postal customers, vendors, suppliers, business partners, or contractors, and (4) does not connect the Postal Service to the employee’s charitable fundraising efforts by using the employee’s postal title, position, or authority.
Prohibited Outside Employment
No. Postal Service employees are prohibited from obtaining a second job with a company that delivers mailable matter. However, the employee could work for an Amazon subsidiary that does not deliver mailable matter (e.g., Whole Foods Market, Twitch) after obtaining permission from the Ethics and Legal Compliance team (email@example.com).
No. Postal Service employees are prohibited from owning a commercial mail receiving agency.
Prior Approval Requirement
No. Postal Service employees are prohibited from obtaining a second job with or for a person engaged in the transportation of mail under a postal contract: (1) to or from the postal facility at which the employee works; or (2) to or from a postal facility that has the same first three digits of its ZIP code as the first three digits of the ZIP code of the post office where the employee works. Because the HCR contractor transports mail to the RCA’s postal facility, the RCA is prohibited from obtaining a second job with the HCR contractor.
An employee is “seeking employment” when the employee:
- Negotiates employment (interviews, discusses salary, etc.)
- Sends out a résumé
- Makes an unsolicited call to a prospective employer
- Does not immediately reject a communication by a prospective employer
An employee is no longer “seeking employment” when:
- The employee or the prospective employer reject the possibility of employment
- Two months have passed since the employee sent the unsolicited résumé to the prospective employer as long as the prospective employer has not contacted the employee about employment during that time
While on duty, a postal contractor asked a Postal Service employee if he would be interested in a new position that the contractor was establishing. The postal employee has postal duties that involve the postal contractor. The employee replied, “Let me think about it.” Is the employee considered to be seeking employment?
Yes. An employee is prohibited from seeking employment with a prospective employer if the employee works on postal matters that affect the prospective employer. Here, the employee works with the postal contractor in his postal capacity. Because the employee did not immediately reject the offer, the employee is seeking employment with the contractor.
If a former postal employee’s private sector employer expects the former postal employee to communicate, interface, or attend meetings with the Postal Service, then the post-employment restrictions are triggered.
The former postal employee should contact the Ethics and Legal Compliance team (firstname.lastname@example.org) before communicating, interfacing, or attending meetings with the Postal Service.