Amdt1.3.6.3 Honoria and Government Employees

First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In United States v. National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU),1 the Court struck down an honoraria ban as applied to lower-level employees of the Federal Government. The Court distinguished the honoraria ban from the Hatch Act on the grounds that the honoraria ban suppressed employees’ right to free expression while the Hatch Act sought to protect that right.2 The Court also observed that there was no evidence of improprieties in the acceptance of honoraria by members of the plaintiff class of federal employees.3 The Court emphasized further difficulties with the “crudely crafted” honoraria ban: it was limited to expressive activities and had no application to other sources of outside income, it applied when neither the subjects of speeches and articles nor the persons or groups paying for them bore any connection to the employee’s job responsibilities, and it exempted a “series” of speeches or articles without also exempting individual articles and speeches. These “anomalies” led the Court to conclude that the “speculative benefits” of the ban were insufficient to justify the burdens it imposed on expressive activities.4

Footnotes
1
513 U.S. 454 (1995). back
2
See id. at 471. back
3
See id. The plaintiff class consisted of all Executive Branch employees below grade GS-16. Also covered by the ban were senior executives, Members of Congress, and other federal officers, but the possibility of improprieties by these groups did not justify application of the ban to “the vast rank and file of federal employees below grade GS-16.” Id. at 472. back
4
Id. at 477. back