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Liability Insurance for Federal Employees and Contractors

Social Media and Hatch Act

Post, Like, Comment, Share – But Check Your Guidelines Every Year

So we all like our social media, but is it worth losing your job over?   In just a few short years, social media has become an ubiquitous commodity in the workplace with a plethora of valuable uses. In short, it allows for employees to make and support professional connections, to collaborate easily and effectively, and to share necessary information in real time. Agencies have embraced the technology in recent years and use it quite effectively to raise awareness about important public issues, as a crisis communication tool during emergencies, and to build public trust by offering authenticity and transparency. 

After news broke about border patrol agents posting offensive material in a Facebook group, people in the public and private sectors couldn’t help but think about their own groups, their own posts, their own likes and comments, and the security of their own platforms. Your individual reputation is often defined by the way you engage in public environments.  Your agency’s reputation is often defined by the way its employees engage – with rules in place to protect them:
  1. Know your agency’s social media policy.  And check it annually - possibly when you’re reviewing your benefits during open season.  These policies change almost as quickly as technology evolves – and it is your responsibility to know your agency’s policies and the parameters in which you are allowed to engage both on and off duty.

  2. Know what your restrictions are under the Hatch Act that regulates what federal employees can and cannot share or promote regarding political views. The 2020 campaign is already in full swing, and the Act is frequently updated and includes regulations for both on and off duty conduct.  A Hatch Act violation can result in a range of disciplinary actions, including removal from service, reduction in grade, removal of clearance, suspension, letter of reprimand or a financial penalty. 
Social media is an effective and powerful tool and disengaging is not the answer (for most of us), but if you aren’t careful, even your inactions on social media platforms can adversely affect your reputation and career. Take some time today to read your agency’s policies – it’s important – and while you might be thoughtful in your posts, you must be actively aware of and engaged with your likes, your groups, your shares, and the security of your information/account.
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