Finding Practical Examples: Hatch Act

Real examples make training lively and convincing. Reciting abstract rules until you are blue in the face won’t make as much of an impact as one relevant example. An Office of Special Counsel press release demonstrates exactly how and why employees violated the Hatch Act, and the consequences:

  • A civilian Army employee ran in a partisan election despite numerous warnings from both OSC and his agency that doing so was in violation of the Hatch Act. OSC also offered not to seek disciplinary action if the employee withdrew from the election. An OSC investigation further found that he solicited contributions for his campaign, also in violation of the Hatch Act. As a result, the employee served a 180-day unpaid suspension.
  • A police officer with an Arizona VA medical center ran in a partisan campaign for constable, even though he acknowledged that he knew doing so was a violation of the Hatch Act. As a penalty for this violation, he was suspended without pay for 20 consecutive calendar days.
  • A civilian employee with the U.S. Navy in Rhode Island sent seven emails directed at the failure of President Obama’s 2012 campaign to fellow federal employees. She sent the partisan emails while on duty and in a federal workplace even though her agency had previously notified her that doing so was a violation of the Hatch Act. She was suspended for five days without pay.
  • A contracting officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent a highly partisan email to dozens of people. She sent this email, which urged everyone to vote Democrat in the upcoming election, while on duty and in the federal workplace. She acknowledged that she should have known about the Hatch Act and that sending the email was a violation of it. As a penalty, she was suspended without pay for one day.

How can you find more examples? The OSC website has a Press Release page. You can even save labor by using a page monitoring service like Watch That Page that will report to you by e-mail when the page is changed. The Ombud Forum website has more information.

Entitlement Syndrome: Teaching Examples

“Entitlement Syndrome” refers to a belief by employees, usually senior employees, that their position entitles them to certain perks. A 2012 Washington Post article on allegations against three Army general officers provides multiple examples for use in training, including this:

On Feb. 14 he sent the following e-mail to an aide: “Might you be able to stop by a florist and pick up a small bouquet of spring flowers for me? Not extravagant at all — just a small not very expensive bouquet.” The aide offered to get it and asked where the general would like the flowers delivered. Ward responded: “Can you have in the limo pls — trunk. Tnx”

Examples like these may have much more teaching value than examples like the high-ranking EPA official who in effect stole hundreds of thousands of dollars by claiming to be an undercover CIA operative. Few employees would ever dream of that type of fraud, and those few are unlikely to be dissuaded by an ethics briefing. On the other hand, many high ranking officials–ones we otherwise would consider honest and capable–succumb to the temptation to take advantage of abusing subordinates.