The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has filed two similar complaints for disciplinary action against Federal employees for sending politically partisan electronic mail messages while on duty, in violation of the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act prohibits Federal executive branch employees from engaging in political activity while on duty, in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an individual employed or holding office in the U.S. government, while wearing a uniform or official insignia identifying the office or position of the employee, or using any vehicle owned or leased by the government. Political activity has been defined as activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for a partisan political office or partisan political group.
One complaint against a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employee Maureen Taylor-Glaze, alleges that she sent an e-mail message to about 15 of her EPA coworkers while she was on duty and in her Federal office building. The message contained a widely-circulated picture purportedly to be actress Jane Fonda and John Kerry speaking at an anti-war rally. Under the picture were numerous negative statements about Presidential candidate John Kerry, and the statement, Please keep this going. We do not need this man as our President.
A similar complaint alleges that U.S. Air Force civilian employee Donald Thompson sent an e-mail message titled, George W, to more than 70 recipients while he was on duty. The message contained a document mimicking President Bushs resume and is filled with allegations of incompetence and malfeasance specifically directed at President Bushs defeat in the upcoming election. It also contains the phrases, Please consider me when voting in 2004 and Please send this to every voter you know.
In an OSC press release, Special Counsel Scott Bloch stated, The use of Internet and electronic mail is second-nature to almost everyone, and has become a favorite and effective campaign tool, even more so perhaps, than four years ago. I want to remind Federal employees to be vigilant about following the Hatch Act, because we will consider this activity a form of electronic leafleting, and thus a violation of the prohibition on partisan political activity in the workplace.
Employees found to have violated the Hatch Act face penalties ranging from 30-day suspensions without pay to removal from federal employment. Suspended or terminated employees may appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.