Issue 5 | August 2020
Guidelines for Political Activities
Being a University employee does not mean you lose any of your constitutional rights as a citizen to participate or not participate as you desire in the political process; however, because you are a University employee you must also be aware of the limitations on participation in partisan or political activity during work time and limitations on the use of University property. This Ram Right summarizes the laws and policies surrounding political activities of employees.
- No employee may engage in political activity while on duty. Political activity includes any action directed toward the success or failure of a candidate, political party, or partisan political group. This includes campaigning and/or taking an active part in managing a campaign. N.C.G.S. §126-13; State HumanResources Policy (Section 3, page 26 and page 35); Section 300.5.1 of the UNC Policy Manual.
- Due to potential conflicts of interest or time, all EHRA employees (Faculty and EHRA Non-Faculty) becoming candidates for or holding political offices must make certain disclosures and receive various approvals. Prospective candidates or office holders for some political offices must use the form or format prescribed by the President to petition the Board of Governors or the board of trustees for approval in advance; failure to do so may result in loss of University employment. Sections 300.5.1 and 300.5.2 of the UNC Policy Manual.
- An employee must use vacation/bonus leave or available comp time if the employee works inside a polling facility in a paid role, such as assisting voters with the voting process, or if the employee is receiving any payment to perform other activities at or around the polling facility for partisan purposes, such as distributing candidate information. Community Service Leave cannot be used for partisan political activities or for activities for which the employee receives compensation but could be used for any unpaid non- partisan volunteer activities at or near the polling facility. N.C.G.S. §126-13; State Human Resources Policy (Section 5, pages 17 and1.81).
- Voting is not allowed as work time. Most polling stations are open extended hours and should allow most employees to vote before or after work. Additionally, employees have other options, such as early voting or voting during their scheduled meal break. Management may allow employees to use available vacation/bonus leave or comp time for hours missed during the employee’s regular work schedule for voting purposes. Management, to the extent business operations allow, may provide employees a flexible work schedule so that they can make up the missed time within the same work week. State Human Resources Policy (Section 5, page 17).
- In general, no employee may use his or her position to secure support for, or to oppose, any candidate or issue in an election involving candidates for office or party nominations. In addition, no individual or group may use state or University funds, services (including mail and email service), supplies (including letterhead and postage), equipment (including telephones, computers, photocopiers, and fax machines), vehicles, or other University property to secure support for, or to oppose, any person or issue in any election. This prohibition applies equally to University faculty, staff and students, and to individuals external to the University. N.C.G.S. §126-13; Section 300.5.1 of the UNC Policy Manual.
- No employee may coerce an employee or applicant to support or contribute to a political candidate, political committee,or political party or to change the party designation of their voter registration. N.C.G.S. §126-14.
- No EHRA employee (Faculty and EHRA Non-Faculty) may promise preferential treatment (or actually confer such preference) or threaten detrimental treatment (or actually impose such detriment) to any person to induce support for, or opposition to, a candidate, political office, or partisan political group. Section 300.5.1 of the UNC Policy Manual.
- Each member of the University community has the right to freely express their views on any subject, including advocacy for/against candidates for public office, so long as the activity is in compliance with the provisions referenced above. First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and by the N.C. Constitution, Article 1, Sec. 14, Freedom of Speech and Press; N.C.G.S. §126-13; Article 36 of N.C.G.S. 116 (S.L. 2017-196); and Sections 300.5.1and 1300.8 of the UNC Policy Manual.
- Employees may participate fully in public affairs in a manner that does not compromise their efficiency or integrity as employees or the neutrality, efficiency, or integrity of the constituent institution or unit in which they are employed. To that end, employees must not imply that the political opinions they assume are endorsed by the University. Section 300.5.1 of the UNC Policy Manual.
The above policy provisions apply explicitly to the use of public resources in support of, or in opposition to, partisan political campaigns. They are not intended to limit discussion among faculty, administrators, and other State employees regarding political or campaign issues or candidates or to limit debates at which candidates have equal time.
Contacts for Additional Information
Please contact Human Resources or Legal Affairs if you need more information.
ReferencesN.C.G.S. §126-13 to §126-15 – Article 5. Political Activity of Employees
N.C.G.S. §116-300 to §116-304 – Article 36. Campus Free Speech
State Human Resources Policy (Section 3, page 26) – Limitation of Political Activity
State Human Resources Policy (Section 3, page 35) – Secondary Employment
State Human Resources Policy (Section 5, page 17 and page 18.1) – Community Service Leave
UNC Policy Manual Section 300.5.1 – Political Activities of Employees
UNC Policy Manual Section 300.5.2 – Candidacy/Office-holding (Elective and Appointive Public Office)
UNC Policy Manual Section 1300.8 – Free Speech and Free Expression within the University of North Carolina
WSSU Policy 102.4-Political Activities (EHRA Employees)
The Constitution of the United States – Bill of Rights – First Amendment
The North Carolina State Constitution (Article I, Section 14) – Declaration of Rights