Political activities rule changes to be proposed for federal employees

Federal employees who violate restrictions on partisan political activities no longer would face firing by default, under proposed rules set for publication Wednesday.

Rules from the Office of Personnel Management would carry out changes to the Hatch Act enacted last year, the first major overhaul of those policies in nearly two decades.

(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

Under prior policy, employees were automatically fired for violations, a penalty that could be reduced only to an unpaid 30-day suspension on appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Under the proposed rules, penalties for violations could include reprimands, shorter suspensions, reduction in grade, a civil penalty of up to $1,000, firing and debarment from federal employment for five years.

The rules also would treat employees of the District of Columbia as state or local employees rather than as federal employees for purposes of the law. State and local employees fall under the Hatch Act’s provision barring candidacy for certain elective offices if their salaries are fully funded by federal grants or loans, under the rules. Previously, that ban applied even if their salaries were only partly federally funded.

The rules also clarify that OPM may allow federal employees living in the District, along with those in surrounding jurisdictions in Virginia and Maryland, to participate in some otherwise prohibited activities under certain circumstances.

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