Federal employees found to have violated the Hatch Act’s prohibitions on partisan politicking would face penalties ranging from a reprimand to a five-year ban from federal employment under proposed changes published in today’s Federal Register.
Up to now, the only sanction has been automatic firing, unless the three-member Merit Systems Protection Board unanimously agreed to impose a 30-day unpaid suspension. As a result, agencies were sometimes reluctant to pursue minor infractions. The Office of Personnel Management’s proposed changes follow up on the framework laid out in the Hatch Act Modernization Act, which Congress approved last December in part to give the board more flexibility.
Under the proposal, violators could face the following sanctions: Removal, reduction-in-grade, debarment from federal employment for up to five years, suspension, reprimand or a $1,000 fine. The MSPB would also no longer have to vote unanimously to impose lesser penalties.
OPM is taking public comments on the proposal through Sept. 23.