§ 3-1-19. Protection of legitimate political activity of employees; restrictions.  

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  • (a) For the purposes of this Section:

    (1) "Political campaign" means activities engaged in for the purposes of promoting a political issue, for influencing the outcome of an election for local or state or federal office, or for influencing the out come of a referendum or a special election.

    (2) "Political candidate" means any person who has made known his or her intention to seek, or campaign for, local or state or federal office in a general, primary, or state election.

    (3) "Political party" means any party organization or group having as its purpose the promotion of political candidates or political campaigns.

    (4) "Political activities" includes, but is not limited to, voting, registering to vote; soliciting votes or endorsements on behalf of a political candidate or political campaign; expressing opinions, privately or publicly, on political subjects and candidates; displaying a political picture, sign, sticker, badge, or button; participating in the activities of, or contributing financially to, a political party, candidate, or campaign or an organization that supports a political candidate or campaign; attending or participating in a political convention, caucus, rally, or other political gathering; initiating, circulating or signing a political petition; engaging in fund-raising activities for any political party, candidate or campaign; acting as a recorder, watcher, challenger, or similar officer at the polls on behalf of a political party, candidate or campaign; or becoming a political candidate.

    (5) "Employee" means any person in the competitive or exempt service of the County, including, but not limited to, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, police officers, and deputies, appointees, and employees of the Commonwealth's Attorney, the Clerk of the Circuit Court, and the Sheriff.

    (b) All employees shall be protected against any unwarranted infringement of their rights as American citizens to vote as they choose, to express their opinions, and to join any legitimate political organization whose purposes are not inconsistent with their loyalty to the United States. It is the intent of this Section to grant employees the full latitude to participate in political activities provided by state statute, subject to all of the restrictions placed on such participation by state law, including, but not limited to, Va. Code Ann. § 15.2-1512.2, in a manner that is consistent with the proper and efficient performance of their duties as employees.

    (1) To this end, all employees may participate in political activities while they are off duty, out of uniform, and not on the premises of their employment with the County.

    (2) It is prohibited for any employee to engage in political activities while on duty, in uniform, or on the premises of their employment with the County; provided, however, employees may attend or participate in a candidate forum or debate sponsored by a non-partisan organization held on County premises; and provided further that employees who are not on duty and not in uniform may engage in political activities on County-owned or leased premises under the same circumstances and subject to the same terms and conditions that apply to members of the general public.

    (c) It shall be unlawful for any person in the service of the County or of a constitutional officer to reward or to discriminate against any applicant for a position as an employee or any employee because of his or her political affiliations or political activities as permitted by this Section, except as such affiliation or activity may be established by law as disqualification for employment by the County or by the constitutional officer.

    (d) The County Executive is hereby authorized and directed to acquaint employees with the provisions of this Article protecting them against intimidation, coercion and discrimination on account of such legitimate political activities. The County Executive is also hereby authorized to promulgate such procedural directives as he or she deems appropriate to administer the provisions of this Section.

    (e) Any employee who has access to the grievance procedure and who feels that he or she has been discriminated or retaliated against in violation of the provisions of this Section because of his or her participation or failure to participate in political activities shall be entitled to file a grievance concerning such action under the County's grievance procedure .

    (f) The appointing authority, the County Executive, and the Human Resources Director shall give no consideration to any endorsements or recommendations from any national, state or local political party or officer thereof in making appointments, promotions or dismissals or in any other personnel action.

    (g) Employees are prohibited from using their official authority to coerce or attempt to coerce a subordinate employee to pay, lend, or contribute anything of value to a political party, candidate, or campaign, or to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of that person's political affiliations or political activities, except as such affiliation or activity may be established by law as disqualification for employment.

    (h) Employees are prohibited from discriminating in the provision of public services, including, but not limited to fire fighting, emergency medical, or law enforcement services, or responding to requests for such services on the basis of the political affiliations or political activities of the person or organization for which such services are provided or requested.

    (i) Employees are prohibited from suggesting or implying that any county, city, or town has officially endorsed a political party, candidate, or campaign.

    (j) If an employee violates a provision of this Section, the employee shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal. It shall be unlawful for a person other than an employee to violate any provision of this Section.

    (k) It shall be an affirmative defense to a criminal charge or a disciplinary action under this Section that, prior to engaging in the activity giving rise to the criminal charge or disciplinary action, the officer or employee or person who is not an employee had requested and received from the County Executive a determination that his or her participation in the proposed activity under the facts and circumstances described in his or her request did not fall under any of the prohibitions of this Section. Such determination is a defense only to the extent that the officer or employee fully and completely disclosed all material facts and circumstances in his or her request for determination. Requests for such a determination shall be in writing. The County Executive shall render his or her determination in writing no sooner than ten days after receipt of the request and after obtaining the opinion of the County Attorney. Such determinations shall be kept on file in the office of the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors.

    (l) Nothing in this Section shall be construed as relieving an employee from complying with the provisions of any applicable federal law, including, but not limited to, the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 1501, et seq. (7-87-3; 26-98-3; 35-05-3; 15-11-3.)