Support

Legal Insider: Social media tips for federal employees

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By Melissa L. Watkins, Esq.

Social media has a very long half-life, possibly longer than radioactive material.

As a federal employee, you are subject to certain limitations regarding your social media activity. There are five basic rules you should keep in mind as you engage with social media:

  1. Don’t: Use Personal Social Media During the Workday
  2. Don’t: Give the Impression You Are Posting in An Official Capacity
  3. Don’t: Share Non-public Information.
  4. Don’t: Violate the Hatch Act
  5. Don’t: Post Content that Could Raise a Security Concern

These rules will help you to avoid violations of the Federal Government Standards of Conduct and the Hatch Act.

The Federal Government Standards of Conduct do not prohibit federal employees from establishing and maintaining personal social media accounts. However, employees must ensure that their social media activities comply with the Standards and other applicable laws, including agency supplemental regulations and agency-specific policies.

When federal employees are on-duty, the Standards of Conduct require that they use official time in an honest effort to perform official duties, and that they use government property only to perform official duties, unless they are authorized to use government property for other purposes. Where agencies have established policies permitting limited personal use of government resources by their employees, those policies may authorize employees to access their personal social media accounts while on duty.

However, you should keep in mind that there is no right to privacy on work devices. If you do use your work device, whether desktop computer or mobile phone, to access personal accounts, understand that your activity may be monitored by the agency. The Standards of Conduct also prohibit employees from using their official titles, positions, or any authority associated with their public offices for private gain.

In addition to rules arising from the Federal Government Standards of Conduct, federal employees are also prohibited from engaging in certain activities on social media due to the Hatch Act. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from sending messages through social media that advocate for a political party or candidate for partisan public office while on duty or in a federal building. Engaging in such activity may subject federal employees to disciplinary action.

There are three general prohibitions under the Hatch Act that apply to all federal employees:

  1. Employees may not engage in political activity while on duty or in the federal workplace.
  2. Employees may not knowingly solicit, accept, or receive a political contribution for a political party, candidate in a partisan race, or partisan political group at any time.
  3. Employees may not use their official authority or influence to affect the outcome of an election.

Beyond the rules established by the Federal Government Standards of Conduct and the Hatch Act, federal employees, contractors and applicants should also be mindful of the impact that social media can have on possessing or applying for a security clearance.

Federal agencies may also consider publicly available social media information in connection with an application for a security clearance. While the government has been quick to point out it has not yet created a good process for ‘checking’ social media in the background investigations process, the government has been clear that publicly available social media information may be a part of the government’s continuous evaluation process. It is advisable to change your privacy settings to “friends and family only” and to not accept new friend requests from people who you don’t know.

Contact Us

If you are a federal employee in need of employment law representation, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook and Twitter.

Recent Stories

Daily Debrief for Dec 2, 2022

Good Friday evening, Arlington. Today we published 6 articles that were read a total of 14680 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today…

Police issued a traffic ticket every six minutes, on average, during an enforcement effort in front of Nottingham Elementary on Thursday afternoon.

Police swarmed the Rosslyn neighborhood after an alleged thief led an officer on a brief foot pursuit.

It’s holiday time and the lights are coming on in Arlington. Over the next several weeks, a slew of tree lightings, Santa visits, markets, and holiday celebrations are happening around…

Hello Everyone -You are invited to the final meeting of NAACP Arlington Branch NAACP for 2022When: Dec 12, 2022, 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada) Topic: 2022 General Membership Meeting – NAACP Arlington BranchRegister in advance for this webinar:https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_xGl7wD59R8Cu94elw4bAqQAfter registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.7:00 pm Meeting Opens7:30 pm Installation 8:00 pm Presentation/Q&A; by Dave Schutz on Ranked Choice Voting 8:30 pm Final Remarks and Comments by Newly Elected Members9:00 pm Meeting Adjourns Installation Official Robert N. Barnette, Jr. President, Virginia State Conference NAACP The President of the Virginia State Conference NAACP will serve as the Installation Official and provide remarks for our newly elected officers at the general membership. NAACP Arlington Branch Election Results President- Elect: Michael Hemminger 1st Vice President-Elect: James Younger 2nd Vice President-Elect: Bryan Coleman 3rd Vice President-Elect: Lorelle Langhorne Secretary-Elect: Wanda Younger Assistant Secretary-Elect: Kathleen McSweeney Treasurer-Elect: Adriana Spain Assistant Treasurer-Elect: Kenya Pennington Executive Committee-Elect: Nadia Conyers, Kellen MacBeth, Karen Nightengale Their terms officially begin January 1, 2023. 3rd Monday of the month meeting date changed due to the festival observance of Hanukkah

Submit your own Announcement here.

Join us December 10 & 11 for our Annual Handmade Holiday Workshop Series. We have a myriad of fun and festive programs from linoleum block wrapping paper printing and buttonhole book making workshops led by Eliza Clifford to a meditative grid workshop and Calligraphy Card Making with Anjelika Deogirikar. Join these wonderful artists and get creative this holiday season!

Submit your own Announcement here.

Light Up Arlington – Clarendon Menorah Lighting

Join us as we celebrate the holiday of Chanukah! Enjoy delicious Latkes, hot cocoa, donuts and more!

Clarendon Menorah Lighting and Community Celebration

Experience the festival of lights!!

*Lighting of a giant 9 foot Menorah

Read More

National Chamber Ensemble – Holiday Cheer!

NCE’s Holiday Concert will bring the finest classical masterpieces and holiday favorites together for the whole family. The festivities begin with Leroy Anderson’s classic “Sleigh Ride” and “Chanukkah Festival”, music from the Nutcracker and by J.S. Bach.

Outstanding Young Artist

×

Subscribe to our mailing list