Political expression

Now that Election Day has passed, the Postal Service is providing employees an update on the rules surrounding political activities under the Hatch Act.

Under the law, political activities are defined as those directed toward the success or failure of a political party, partisan political group or candidate for partisan political office.

Since the election is now over, the Hatch Act does not prohibit employees from wearing campaign items such as T-shirts or hats or displaying candidates’ photographs while on duty, while on postal property, while in a postal vehicle or while in uniform.

Although presidential candidates technically remain candidates until the outcome of the election is determined by the Electoral College in December, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the agency responsible for administering the Hatch Act, has issued guidance that this rule applies to presidential candidates as well.

This is because after Election Day, showing support or opposition for a presidential candidate will generally no longer affect the success or failure of that candidate.

However, showing support for a political party or a partisan political group can still affect the success or failure of that party or group, even after Election Day. Therefore, displaying items featuring a political party or partisan political group is still considered political activity under the Hatch Act and still is prohibited while on duty, while on postal property, while in a postal vehicle or while in uniform.

Based on OSC’s guidance, here are some examples:

• Wearing or displaying the following slogans while at work would not qualify as a Hatch Act violation: Biden/Harris 2020, Trump/Pence 2020 or Make America Great Again.

• Wearing or displaying the following slogans while at work is still prohibited: “Democrats for Biden” and “Republicans for Trump.”

• You should also remember, however, even if the display of a particular slogan is not a Hatch Act violation, such display could raise other workplace environment concerns.

If the display of a particular slogan disrupts the workplace or causes other problems, managers should consult with Human Resources regarding how to address those issues.

The Postal Service encourages employees who interact with the public to remember that the organization has customers on every point on the political spectrum.

USPS is the most trusted agency in the federal government, and one way the organization continues to earn that trust is by fulfilling its mission to all Americans in a nonpartisan fashion.

While respecting employees’ right to express themselves, the Postal Service asks them to be mindful and respectful of the broad diversity of views as they represent the organization. Refraining from conduct that could offend some customers while on duty, in a postal vehicle or in uniform is the right thing to do.

Employees who have questions about the Hatch Act can contact their local field law office or send an email to ethics.help@usps.gov.

Acting vice president

Elvin Mercado has been named Atlantic Area’s acting retail and delivery operations vice president.

He replaces Sal Vacca, who is on extended leave.

Atlantic Area has 19 districts, more than 121,000 employees, and 29.8 million delivery points that are serviced from more than 8,600 Post Offices.

Mercado had been manager of Westchester District in New York, where he oversaw 1,700 letter carriers, more than 365 Post Offices and nearly 900,000 delivery points.

He also served as manager of Triboro District and held Postmaster positions Manhattan and the Bronx. He joined the Postal Service in 1988 as a letter carrier.

Higher learning

Do you have questions about high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), one type of health insurance coverage available during this year’s open season?

Here’s what you should know:

• HDHPs generally offer lower premiums than other plans. This means you’ll have less money taken out of your paycheck.

• HDHPs give you greater flexibility. While HDHPs have higher annual deductibles and out-of-pocket limits than other Federal Employees Health Benefits Program plans, they have features that help you pay your medical expenses, including the ability to pay expenses on a pretax or tax-deductible basis.

• HDHPs work with HSAs and HRAs. With HDHPs, a portion of your premium or a credit is automatically deposited into your health savings account (HSA) or health reimbursement arrangement (HRA).

This is money you can use for out-of-pocket health care costs or to save for future medical expenses. HDHPs combine an HSA or HRA with the traditional coverage offered by health maintenance organization and fee-for-service plans.

Any unused money in your HSA rolls over from year to year and stays with you, even if you change plans or leave the Postal Service.

The Open Season LiteBlue page has more information.

Open season, the annual period when you can make changes to your health coverage, runs through Monday, Dec. 14.

Holiday how-to

A new video shows how customers can participate in USPS Operation Santa.

The program allows Postal Service employees, customers and organizations to “adopt” letters to Santa Claus and fulfill holiday wish lists from children and others who are less fortunate.

The one-minute animated video is hosted by Holly, the program’s “spokeself.” She offers instructions for children on compiling their wish list and mailing it to Santa, then explains how customers can go to USPSOperationSanta.com to read and adopt letters.

The program began accepting letters from children and others last week. From Dec. 4-19, employees and customers can adopt letters.

The Postal Service began sharing the video on social media and other channels this week.

Share your feedback at uspslink@usps.gov. Your comments could be included in the “Mailbag” column.

More holiday savings

USPS is offering savings on Mastercard gift card purchases at select Post Office locations this month.

From Nov. 28-Dec. 11, customers and employees will receive $2 off the purchase fee of Mastercard gift cards valued at $50 and $100.

Variable load gift cards are excluded. No coupon is needed.