Social Media for Federal Employees: Handle with Care

Federal employees should use caution when using social media. You’ve probably heard of the Hatch Act, which restricts participation in political activities for these employees. Yet during the age of social media, the definition of a political activity can be murky. But it’s worth paying attention: The Hatch Act states that anyone who violates it could get suspended for 30 days or even “removed from their position,” aka fired. Ouch.

So what are we talking about when we talk about “political activity? How do you separate your work life online with your personal life online? These questions are key to understanding what you can and cannot do. To add to the confusion, the rules change if you are a Less Restricted Employee (LRE), which covers most federal executive branch employees or a Further Restricted Employee (FRE), which includes some intelligence and law enforcement, among others; it also matters if you are posting from home or at work. 

For guidance, the US Office of Special Counsel has put together the Hatch Act website, which serves as a source of how to protect yourself and your job.

Read the website early and often; In the meantime, here are the answers to some basic questions you might want to know now. We’ll stick to LRE here, since this is the majority of federal employees:

Can I link my blog to the homepage of a political site?

  • At home: Yes
  • At work: No

Can I write a blog that supports or opposes a political candidate or group?

  • At home: Yes
  • At work: No

Can I list my official title on my Facebook Profile?

  • At home: Yes
  • At work: Yes

Can I solicit political contributions on Twitter?

  • At home: No
  • At work: No