Explaining the Hatch Act’s social media rules

The Postal Service is reminding employees that they are required to abide by the Hatch Act, including the guidelines for using social media.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Here’s a quick recap of the law:

• The Hatch Act exists to keep politics out of federal workplaces. The law, passed in 1939, limits certain political activities of federal employees, including postal workers.

The Hatch Act’s goals are to ensure federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that federal employees are promoted based on merit, not political affiliation.​​​​

Employees are allowed to register to vote and support their favorite candidates by voting, but other activities — like promoting political preferences in the workplace — are limited.

• The Hatch Act applies online, as well as in real life.The Hatch Act permits employees to post campaign logos or images on social media, including their personal Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and Instagram accounts.

The law also allows employees to comment on social media posts about politics, although they cannot identify themselves as federal employees in their comments.

USPS employees aren’t allowed to use their social media accounts while on the clock.

• Under the law, employees should choose profile photos wisely. Here’s where things can get tricky.

The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from using campaign images as social media profile photos. The reason: Because profile images are attached to everything a person “likes,” tweets or comments on, they are categorized as on-the-clock politicking — which is restricted under the Hatch Act.

Employees with questions about the do’s and don’ts of the Hatch Act should go to the Ethics Blue page and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel FAQs and Hatch Act websites.

Employees can also contact their local field law office or send an email to ethics.help@usps.gov.

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