Office of Special Counsel advisory on Black Lives Matter and the Hatch

Office of Special Counsel advisory on Black Lives Matter and the HatchOffice of Special Counsel advisory on Black Lives Matter and the Hatch

Detailed Description

I. INTRODUCTION

Beginning in late May 2020, protesters began organizing large demonstrations across the

United States. The immediate precipitating event was the videotaped police killing of George

Floyd, a black man. However, the demonstrations are largely focused on the issue of racism in

America more broadly and not limited to Mr. Floyd’s death alone. The phrase “Black Lives

Matter” (BLM) is frequently used by protesters and associated with the demonstrations.

Additionally, BLM-related organizations have supported and/or organized demonstrations.

 

In response, numerous federal employees have asked OSC whether BLM or related

materials raise any Hatch Act concerns when used or displayed while on duty or in the federal

workplace. The questions raise two distinct but related issues. The first is whether using BLM

terminology is inherently political activity. And the second is whether the Black Lives Matter

Global Network (BLMGN)—the owner of www.blacklivesmatter.com and arguably the most

prominent BLM-related organization—is a partisan political group. As further described below,

using BLM terminology is not inherently political activity and BLMGN is not currently a

partisan political group.1 Accordingly, the Hatch Act generally allows employees to engage in

BLM-related activity while on duty or in the workplace. But, as described below, employees are

still prohibited from combining BLM-related activity with “political activity” while on duty or in

the workplace and from engaging in partisan political fundraising in connection with BLMrelated

organizations. “Political activity” is an activity directed toward the success or failure of a

political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.2

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