Know the rules on employee political activities

Since 2008 is an election year, it is appropriate to remind all university employees of current state law and university policies regarding employee political activities while at work and the use of university facilities or resources for political activities or purposes.

There are three restrictions that should be noted in particular here. The applicable statutory and administrative code provisions and UW-Madison policies are included in the attached.

First, it is a violation of state law for a UW employee to engage in political activities while at work. This has been interpreted to include working on or assisting with a political campaign; displaying signs and similar items or materials supporting a partisan political candidate in the workplace; and using campus mail, e-mail, telephones and equipment for political activities.

Second, it is a violation of state law for anyone to ask a UW employee to make a political contribution or to help with a political campaign while the employee is at work. This includes sending a request for a contribution or help with a campaign to a UW employee’s work mailing address or work e-mail address.

Third, it is a violation of state law to enter a UW building or facility for the purpose of requesting a political contribution or help for a political campaign. This means state buildings cannot be used for political fund raisers, although student groups may sponsor a candidate who is giving a political speech. There is an exception for University residence halls at Chapter UWS 18.06(16m), Wisconsin Administrative Code.

Charles D. Hoornstra
Director, Administrative Legal Services
Feb. 12, 2008

Note: To download a copy of the Legal Services memo for posting, click here.