Under the Hatch Act of 1939, government employees are prohibited from engaging in political speech – but is saying “Black Lives Matter” or voicing support for the movement political speech?

Not so, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel stated in a July 14 memo.

“BLM [Black Lives Matter] is a ‘hot-button’ issue and both politically and culturally salient,” the memo reads. “But BLM terminology is issue-based, not a campaign slogan. Therefore, using BLM terminology, without more, is not political activity.”

As a social movement, Black Lives Matter formed in response to the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman – who fatally shot a black teenager named Trayvon Martin – but only in recent years has gained significant attention.

The determination comes on the heels of mass unrest sparked across the nation after the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by Minneapolis police officers on May 26 this year. For many, Floyd’s killing – as well as that of Breonna Taylor and Ahmuad Arbery earlier in 2020, and many other Black people in years prior – turned attention paid toward Black Lives Matter into outright support for the movement and its titular sentiment: that the lives of Black people matter.

The memo is also a bit of a surprise considering its executive was picked by President Donald Trump, who in a July 1 tweet likened the words “Black Lives Matter” as a “symbol of hate” after they were painted in yellow on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

The Office of Special Counsel is a government agency that investigates and prosecutes civil service laws that govern federal employees.

Do You Need Legal Assistance?

If you are a federal worker who has reprimanded or faced other consequences for voicing support for Black Lives Matter, we may be able to help you fight for fair and just compensation.

Pines Federal is a law firm that focuses on upholding the rights of federal employees when such rights have been violated at work. You may be entitled to damages from your current or former employer if you were punished for voicing support for Black Lives Matter.

Learn more about how we can help by reaching out to Pines Federal online or calling (800) 801-0598 to schedule a consultation.