The American Federation of Government Employees filed a lawsuit against the Office of Special Counsel on Tuesday for banning the words “the resistance” and “#resist” when discussing President Donald Trump, as well as any advocacy around impeachment.
The suit focuses on the guidelines the OSC issued on November 30, 2018, which prohibited the use of those words by federal employees in the workplace or while on duty, citing the Hatch Act, a law that bans federal employees from participating in political activity.
According to the OSC, “#resist” and “the resistance” have become “slogans of political parties and partisan political groups, including in their efforts to oppose President Trump’s reelection” and are therefore violations of the Hatch Act. The OSC also concluded that advocacy for or against impeachment of President Trump would violate the Hatch Act.
The AFGE, which represents over 600,000 federal employees, say in the court filings that the OSC “badly misconstrued the text and purposes of the Hatch Act.”
The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction against the office’s “draconian interpretation” of the law “so that federal government employees may fully and freely exercise their First Amendment rights within the bounds of the Hatch Act.”
The AFGE argues that Federal employees are allowed to express opinions about policy issues and elected officials under the First Amendment and are therefore not in violation of the Hatch Act when using the word “resistance.”
AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. blasted the OSC’s restriction as “one more example of the ways this administration is eroding institutional norms and attacking merit protections for public employees.”
“This suit is about protecting federal employees from political retribution in the workplace,” Cox said in a statement. “OSC’s vague, overbroad guidance creates an opening for managers and political appointees to go after career civil servants for politically-motivated reasons.”