The federal government, at least in theory, attempts to discourage federal employees from engaging in any sort of partisan political activity while on duty and/or at their place of employment. Considering what a hot topic all of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and/or riots have been lately, how such a flashpoint is handled in government offices has become a question of interest. Since these types of encounters or displays generally fall under the Hatch Act, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) was prompted to provide some guidelines this week. And perhaps it won’t come as much of a surprise to learn that they have deemed the wearing or display of BLM paraphernalia in the workplace to be acceptable under the guidelines of the Hatch Act. (Government Executive)
Federal employees are permitted to wear or display Black Lives Matter paraphernalia in the workplace, as it is not an “inherently partisan” movement, according to the independent agency that oversees the Hatch Act prohibiting civil servants from participating in political activity while on the job.
The Office of Special Counsel released updated guidance on Wednesday on how the Hatch Act applies to the Black Lives Matter movement, as first reported by Federal News Network. The movement started in 2013 and has gained renewed prominence in the wake of nationwide protests for racial justice after police in Minneapolis killed George Floyd in May.
The OSC can get away with this because of the very careful wording they apply to their interpretation of the rules. The Hatch Act makes it fairly clear how and when employees cross the line in terms of partisan political speech or activity.