Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Federal and State laws, rules and regulations control affecting public sector officers and employees engage in partisan political activities


Federal and State laws, rules and regulations affecting public sector officers and employees engage in partisan political activities
Sources: Internal Revenue Service publication, Hatch Act, New York State’s Ethics Commission, case law

Updated information published by the Federal, State and Local Government office of the Federal Internal Revenue Service explaining the reporting and withholding requirements for election workers is posted on the Internet at: https://www.irs.gov/Government-Entities/Federal,-State-&-Local-Governments/Election-Workers-Reporting-and-Withholding. The Internal Revenue Service also reminds public entities employing individuals to work in primary and general elections that specific statutes  apply to them, including whether they are covered by a "Section 218 Agreement".* 

In addition, certainpolitical activities of State and municipal employees whose employment is fully federally financed may be restricted by the Hatch Act [53 Stat. 1147].

Essentially, the Hatch Act bars State and local officers and employees from being candidates for public office in a partisan election,** using official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election or nomination and directly or indirectly coerce contributions from subordinates in support of a political party or candidate.

Although a public officer or employee subject to the provisions of the Hatch Act may lawfully seek the nomination for partisan public office, he or she must resign from his or her public employment upon accepting the nomination.

Further, New York State’s Ethics Commission has issued an Advisory Opinion, Advisory Opinion No. 98-12, addressing the application of Public Officers Law §74 to State employees who work on political campaigns, including fundraising. It is posted on the Internet at http://www.jcope.ny.gov/advice/ethc/98-12.htm

Examples of case law include Pagan v Commissioner of Labor, 53 AD3d 964, in which the Appellate Division addressed the disqualification of an applicant for unemployment insurance benefits following his termination for accepting a designation to run as a candidate for the State Assembly, ruling that his employment was terminated due to misconduct.

The individual, employed by the New York City Housing Authority, had violated the Authority's  written policy prohibiting its staff members running for political office in a partisan election.

Noting that “It is well settled that "[v]iolation of an employer's reasonable policies may constitute disqualifying misconduct," the Appellate Division said that the Authority’s guidelines were established “to assure compliance with the Hatch Act (5 USC §1501 et seq.) and the City of New York’s Conflicts of Interest Board Rules.”

Another relevant decision, Matter of Blackburne, 211 AD2d 13, [motion to appeal denied, 86 N.Y.2d 705], holds that an individual otherwise entitled to a “due process disciplinary hearing” such as one provided by a Taylor Law Collective Bargaining Agreement or by a State Law such as Civil Service Law Section 75 or Section 3020-a of the Education Law, may be summarily removed from his or her position on the authority of a federal Merit Systems Protection Board determination. 

The Blackburne decision, which addressed the right of an individual to file a Taylor Law contract disciplinary grievance after the Merit Systems Protection Board directed his removal from his position for violating the Hatch Act, held that arbitration would offend public policy as it "would significantly lessen the efficacy of the Hatch Act and frustrate its purpose and scope."

*If the election workers are covered by a Section 218 Agreement with the Social Security Administration (SSA), the terms of the Agreement will determine whether the payments are subject to FICA.

** A candidate seeking election to a school board is typically deemed to be seeking office in a “non-partisan” election.

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

Caution:

Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.

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