With the election over, federal employees now may freely wear clothing or buttons in the workplace showing the candidates and may display pictures of them, but such items advocating for or against political parties or partisan political groups remain banned.
Guidance from the Office of Special Counsel notes that the Hatch Act restricts political activities of federal employees related to a political party, a candidate for partisan office or a partisan political group. The law applies while on duty, in the workplace, in an official uniform or while in a government vehicle.
OSC wrote that until the Electoral College meets in January, presidential and vice presidential candidates remain “candidates” for election. However, at this point supporting or opposing them will not affect the outcome, it said. “Thus, after Election Day, activities like wearing campaign t-shirts or displaying candidate pictures do not constitute political activity, and the Hatch Act does not prohibit a federal employee from engaging in such activities, even while on duty or in the federal workplace.”
Similar guidance has been issued following prior elections, said an OSC spokeswoman who added that the agency had received queries from federal workers asking what is now allowed.
Certain tighter restrictions had taken effect after President Obama officially became a candidate for reelection. OSC had said for example that his photograph could be displayed in the workplace only “in a traditional size and manner and should not be altered in any way (e.g., the addition of halos or horns).”
The new guidance adds that at all times the Hatch Act bars wearing or displaying items that show support for or opposition to a political party or partisan political group.
“For example, a federal employee can never wear or display a political party t-shirt or similar item in the federal workplace,” OSC said. “Accordingly, even after Election Day, employees, while on duty or in the federal workplace, are prohibited from wearing or displaying items that show support for or opposition to a political party and a Presidential candidate; for example, items with a ‘Democrats for Obama’ or ‘Republicans for Romney’ slogan.”