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August 31, 2020

Basics of federal law regulating federal, state, municipal and certain other officers and employees engaging in partisan political activities

5 U.S.C. §7321, et seq, An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities and typically referred to as the Hatch Act, was enacted by Congress to express its policy that "employees should be encouraged to exercise fully, freely, and without fear of penalty or reprisal, and to the extent not expressly prohibited by law, their right to participate or to refrain from participating in the political processes of the Nation." Recently significant attention has been focused on provisions set out in law prohibiting partisan political activities by most officers and employees serving in executive branch of the federal government. 

On April 20, 2020, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a nonpartisan shared staff to congressional committees and Members of Congress, posted a publication, The Hatch Act: A Primer, on the Internet at A Guide to the Hatch Act for Federal Employees - OSC.gov .

The Hatch Act, however, also applies to state officers and employees and officers and employees of political subdivisions of a state whose principal employment is in connection with an activity which is financed, in whole or in part, by the federal government. This prohibition, however, does not apply to individuals employed by educational or research institutions that a state supports and certain religious, philanthropic and cultural organizations. For example, the  members of a public school board of education and school officers and teachers employed by a public school are not within the ambit of the Act.

The New York State Bar Association posted an article by Sung Mo Kim, Esq. on the Internet addressing the applicability of the Hatch Act to New York State municipal officers and employees at https://nysba.org/app/uploads/2020/03/HatchActKimMunicipalFall06.pdf.

In addition, public employers in New York State may prohibit its officers and employees from campaigning for, and holding, elected office subject to its action satisfying the so-called Pickering Balancing Test. See https://publicpersonnellaw.blogspot.com/2018/09/public-employers-may-prohibit-its.html.

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