Yesterday a memo was sent out by the Office of Special Counsel —note that this is not Robert Mueller’s office— which made it clear to federal employees that they are restricted from using certain words and hashtags, as well as mentioning possible impeachment while in the workplace. The words and hashtags are as follows: “resistance,” “#resist” and “#resistTrump.”
The Office of Special Counsel claims that any such behavior may be in violation of the Hatch Act, an act signed in 1939 which prohibits employees in the federal government from engaging in some forms of political activity.
“Advocating for a candidate to be impeached, and thus potentially disqualified from holding federal office, is clearly directed at the failure of that candidate’s campaign for federal office,” wrote the Office of Special Counsel in their memo to employees. “Advocating against a candidate’s impeachment is…also considered political activity.”
As for the hashtags and phrases that they claim are banned from use in the workplace, the memo states the following:
“We understand that the “resistance” and “#resist” originally gained prominence shortly after President Trump’s election in 2016 and generally related to efforts to oppose administration policies. However, “resistance,” “#resist” and similar terms have become inextricably linked with the electoral success (or failure) of the president. We must presume that the use or display of [these words and phrases] and similar statements is political activity unless the facts and circumstances indicate otherwise.”
The memo did clarify that the words and phases were only forbidden in the workplace when employees are in uniform and are exuding a position of authority.
Whether this memo will be challenged or not is yet to be seen, but multiple legal scholars have weighed in with their own skepticism regarding the claims by the Office of Special Counsel.