HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » General Discussion (Forum) » Backlash as federal worke...

Thu Dec 6, 2018, 01:19 PM

Backlash as federal workers warned not to discuss Trump impeachment


Backlash as federal workers warned not to discuss Trump impeachment

Unions and free speech advocates say official advice on expressing political opinions at work overly restricts dissent

?width=620&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=a06c1037354c458425a06397dbd519c2
A worker passes a cafe offering free coffee to federal employees near the the White House during the government shutdown in Washington in January 2018.
A worker passes a cafe offering free coffee to federal employees near the the White House during the government shutdown in Washington in January 2018. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

New guidance warning federal workers not to discuss Donald Trump’s potential impeachment or the so-called “resistance” movement has sparked controversy, with some ethics advocates voicing concerns over what they see as an effort to crack down on free speech and limit dissent. A memo released by the Office of Special Counsel (this is NOT the Mueller investigation) last week clarified what constitutes political activity at the federal workplace, stemming from Trump seeking re-election as president in 2020. In addition to avoiding topics that might suggest views favorable or unfavorable toward Trump, the document stipulated “strong criticism or praise of a presidential administration’s policies and actions” also amount to political activity.


The move prompted immediate backlash from government watchdogs and unions, who said the interpretation of political activity is too broad and exposes more than 2 million federal employees to undue risk and could hurt their free speech rights. “This guidance is a broad reach that employees may find confusing. It could unnecessarily have a chilling effect on employees’ first amendment free speech,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 federal employees in 33 departments and agencies.

At issue is the Hatch Act, a law dating back nearly eight decades that was designed to prevent federal employees from engaging in partisan politics at work or while in their official capacity as civil servants. The law has long been enforced by the OSC, an independent federal agency unrelated to special counsel Robert Mueller and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The office typically investigates complaints against employees accused of engaging in partisan activity at work, and can recommend disciplinary measures that could result in dismissal.

Faced with criticism that its definition of political activity was too far-reaching, the OSC insisted there had been no substantive changes in how such scrutiny was being applied. The guidelines did not bar employees entirely from discussing what presidential conduct may warrant impeachment or sharing their thoughts on the matter, the office said. It noted that what would instead be inappropriate would be to advocate for – or against – the president’s impeachment while in the workplace.


. . . . .

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/06/federal-workers-warned-not-to-discuss-trump-impeachment-backlash

6 replies, 713 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 6 replies Author Time Post
Reply Backlash as federal workers warned not to discuss Trump impeachment (Original post)
niyad Dec 6 OP
RockRaven Dec 6 #1
unblock Dec 6 #2
Flo Mingo Dec 6 #3
MarvinGardens Dec 6 #5
gopiscrap Dec 6 #6
MarvinGardens Dec 6 #4

Response to niyad (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2018, 01:23 PM

1. Question: does referring to him as "Individual-1" count as a violation?

That says nothing about impeachment per se, nor is it a position on a political issue.

But I could see how it would get under Trumpists' skins, and thereby be something they want to be included as banned.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to niyad (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2018, 01:27 PM

2. But if government workers have an opinion against homosexuality,

They're totally cool with government workers speaking their minds when it could new to objecting to homosexuality, to the point of refusing to do their job.

But anything about impeachment, or following the law when Donnie tells them to undermine it, oh, forget that!

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to niyad (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2018, 01:47 PM

3. But can they talk about........

'Em peaches?

Gonna be a good season for 'em peaches.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Flo Mingo (Reply #3)

Thu Dec 6, 2018, 01:53 PM

5. I think you have found a loophole.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Flo Mingo (Reply #3)

Thu Dec 6, 2018, 01:57 PM

6. that sounds just peachy to me

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to niyad (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2018, 01:51 PM

4. I can see where the OIG is coming from on this.

As a federal employee, I have had to take Hatch Act training, and also receive Hatch Act notifications in my email from time to time. These spell out in some detail what is prohibited, and what is allowed, under the Hatch Act. Based on those communications, I had always assumed it was a violation to advocate for impeachment, or to disparage the president, while at work.

But whether it really is a violation, it is also good common sense. Trump is at the top of our management chain, most unfortunately. And even if he can't directly fire us, there are political appointees in the upper echelons of our agencies who can, at the very least, cause us some hassle. Going around advocating for impeachment is like saying "down with the CEO" if you work in the private sector.

For those federal employees who want to discuss politics at work, I have some tips:

Have your discussions somewhere they're unlikely to be overheard, ideally an office or conference room with the door closed.

Everyone present for the discussion should be a willing participant.

Alternatively, exchange personal emails with your coworker(s) and discuss after hours. Or if you do discuss over email during work hours, use your personal smartphones. The feds probably aren't bugging your phone, and if they are, it's probably not for Hatch Act violations.

Even better, meet you coworkers off site and after hours for drinks to discuss politics. Then you are not even violating the Hatch Act.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread