With the recent slew of controversial executive orders and, given our ever-growing
contentious political climate, Debra D’Agostino, founding partner
with the Federal Practice Group,
wants federal employees to know that their constitutional rights do not vanish simply because they are
employed by the federal government.
D’Agostino notes an important case, Pickering v. Board of Education
(1968), wherein the Supreme Court established that citizens who accept
public employment do not surrender their First Amendment rights. Moreover,
retaliation for the exercise of such rights is illegal. This decision
continues to be upheld as later cases have shown, such as Lane v. Franks (2014).
As long as federal employees exercise their First Amendment rights on their
own personal social media accounts, after business hours, their speech
is protected. If these rights were exercised while on the job and on behalf
of the government, however, it could warrant disciplinary actions.
While the Hatch Act limits political activities of federal employees, D’Agostino
explains that it is easy to avoid violating it, so long as you do not
engage in political activities while on duty, or solicit political contributions
at any time. This does not mean that you cannot express your dissent,
but rather that you cannot partake in acts that are directed at the success
or failure of a political party, group, or candidate.
Regarding compliance with orders or policy, D’Agostino states that
the rule of thumb is “comply now, complain later.” As with
most rules, there is an exception. If a policy or order puts an employee
in clear danger, they are not obligated to follow it. Keep in mind that
federal employment is a constitutionally protected property, which cannot
be taken away without due process. If you are terminated for exercising
your right to free speech, you have a right to address any charges against you.
The Federal Practice Group is widely recognized for the superior legal
advocacy we provide in challenging the law. Our legal team has over a
century of combined experience and have represented clients around the
world in a wide range of legal matters, including federal, military, and
Call us for a consultation at (888) 488-1774.