City employee asked not to wear MAGA hat to work; says others can wear Medicare For All pins

City employee asked not to wear MAGA hat to work; says others can wear Medicare For All pins

A city employee said he feels singled out after his boss told him he can’t wear his Make America Great Again hat to work.

Felix Caraballo, a street sweeper for the City of Madison, said he started wearing his hat a couple of months ago, but only recently did it become a problem. Caraballo said he is being treated differently from his co-workers because they are allowed to wear pins that endorse Medicare for all, which Caraballo believes is just as much of a political statement as his MAGA hat.

Assistant City Attorney Steve Brist said there are rules in place for city employees to follow a specific code of ethics. Section 3.35 8a states the following:

No employee while on duty or on official City business shall, for the apparent purpose of influencing the outcome of any referendum, or improving the chance of election of a person seeking elective office:

1. Wear or display any campaign material.

2. Distribute any campaign literature.

3. Solicit, receive or give subscriptions, contributions or service for any candidate or referendum position.

4. Actively campaign for any candidate or any referendum position.

Felix Caraballo said his boss asked him not to wear his #MAGA hat at work because it supports #DonaldTrump. Caraballo said he is being singled out because other people at work can wear #MedicareForAll pins, which he believes endorse #BernieSanders #news3now

— Jamie Perez (@JamiePerezTV) May 9, 2019

Brist cited the Hatch Act and said, “The federal opinion specifically states that the Make America Great Again hat is campaign material.”

When asked if Caraballo understood the rules, he said, “I know the rules. But I want them to apply the rules equally for everybody.”

Brist said the MAGA hat is campaign material that supports President Donald Trump in the upcoming election. However, Brist added, Medicare for all is a policy adopted by numerous candidates. He said those who wear the pins are endorsing a concept, not a candidate.

“The Medicare for all is a policy position that some people have taken,” Brist said. “I don’t think it’s particularly a campaign position for one particular candidate alone.”

Caraballo said even though many people associate the MAGA hat with Donald Trump, he doesn’t feel like he is endorsing him for the upcoming election per se.

“I support the president of the United States. Donald Trump is the president of the United States. When Obama was the president, I supported Obama because he was the president of the United States. I don’t care who the president is. I am always going to be that way. I will support. I want the president to do what’s best for the country,” Caraballo said.

Brist said there are certain exceptions that would allow for an employee to wear the MAGA hat.

He said if Trump had not announced his plans to run for re-election in 2020, Caraballo could wear the hat. Brist also said, “If somebody had a hat that was blue that said Make America Great, that might not be an issue.”

If the phrase “Medicare for all” became a slogan for an upcoming presidential candidate, Brist said, “then it would be inappropriate to wear at work.”

Caraballo said he has stopped wearing the hat to work but added that he hopes the rules apply to the other side of things should it get to that point.

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