A NASA employee recently learned the hard way that federal workers can get into legal hot water if they blog or send e-mails about political issues while on the job. And others on the government's payroll may soon learn similar lessons.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) said May 21 that the unidentified NASA employee had been suspended without pay for 180 days for violating the Hatch Act, which requires government workers to keep their jobs and political activities separate from one another.
The suspension took effect March 30 after the OSC found that the employee, a midlevel worker at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, had written numerous political blog posts at work. He also had solicited political contributions via blog posts and used his NASA e-mail account to send out partisan e-mails, according to the OSC.
A spokesman for the OSC said it is investigating a lot of similar cases at other agencies.
In the past, Hatch Act violations often involved federal workers wearing campaign buttons in the office, special counsel Scott Bloch said in a statement. But now, he added, technology multiplies the opportunities for employees to abuse their positions.