VISTA Member Handbook
CORPORATION GUIDELINES ON SERVICE OF MEMBERS IN RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS OR ACTIVITIESThe Corporation acknowledges that religious activities play a positive role in healthy communities, that religion is a defining characteristic of many community organizations (faith-based and secular), and that religious belief and action are central to many AmeriCorps VISTA members' lives.
It is important, however, that AmeriCorps VISTA programs and their members do not endorse or promote, or appear to endorse or promote, religion or a specific religious belief. Consequently, we impose a number of limitations on activities that AmeriCorps VISTA programs can support and in which members can engage while serving, or when otherwise, representing AmeriCorps VISTA. AmeriCorps VISTA members are free to pursue these activities on their own initiative on non- AmeriCorps time, and using non-AmeriCorps funds. The AmeriCorps VISTA logo should not be worn while doing so. These limitations are:
LIMITATION ON POLITICAL ACTIVITIESAmeriCorps VISTA members, as well as AmeriCorps VISTA programs and projects, are subject to certain restrictions related to their engagement in political activities. Such political activities are classified as either: (1) engaging in electoral activities; (2) engaging in lobbying; or (3) participating in demonstrations.
Engaging in Electoral ActivitiesAmeriCorps VISTA members may participate in electoral activities to the extent the activities are allowed under a federal law called the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. Chapter 73. The Hatch Act defines the rules and restrictions on political activities in which federal workers may engage. The Domestic Volunteer Service Act, at 42 U.S.C. § 5055, applies the Hatch Act to AmeriCorps VISTA members during their service.
The Hatch Act applies to all AmeriCorps VISTA members, whether they serve full-time or parttime, at all times during their service, including off duty hours. Permissible activities under the Hatch Act, unless prohibited by other statutory authority, apply to members when they are on authorized leave or are not perceived to be performing as an AmeriCorps VISTA member (e.g., while not actually or perceived as performing service, or off duty service time).
Under the Hatch Act, during off duty service time, AmeriCorps VISTA members may engage in certain political activities, as follows:
Under the Hatch Act, AmeriCorps VISTA members are prohibited from engaging in the following activities at all times during service, including off duty service time:
Also, AmeriCorps VISTA members generally may not solicit, accept, or receive political contributions, with one rare exception: An AmeriCorps VISTA member may solicit a political contribution from another individual if the request is for a contribution to the multicandidate political committee of a federal labor organization or a federal employee organization, to which both the AmeriCorps VISTA member and the individual belong. Such a solicitation is still prohibited, however, if the member is an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader and the individual is an AmeriCorps VISTA member.
AmeriCorps VISTA sponsoring organizations and projects may not use funds or personnel in a manner that supports or identifies the AmeriCorps VISTA program with partisan or nonpartisan election activities. Sponsoring organizations and projects also may not use funds or personnel in a manner that supports or results in voter registration activities, or that provides transportation to the polls. Additionally, no AmeriCorps VISTA member or employee of a sponsoring organization may take any action with respect to a partisan or nonpartisan political activity that would result in the identification or apparent identification of the AmeriCorps VISTA program with such activity. The Hatch Act also prohibits AmeriCorps VISTA members from engaging in voter registration activities or providing transportation to the polls during VISTA service hours.
Engaging In Lobbying
AmeriCorps VISTA sponsoring organizations may not assign AmeriCorps VISTA members to perform service or engage in activities related to influencing the passage or defeat of legislation, or of legislative proposals or initiatives. Also, AmeriCorps VISTA members are generally prohibited from engaging in such lobbying activities; however, there are two rare exceptions to this prohibition on lobbying:
Participating in DemonstrationsAs mentioned above, AmeriCorps VISTA members may participate in political rallies and meetings (i.e., demonstrations) with certain limitations. They may do these types of activities only while on authorized leave, or while off-duty or not otherwise engaged in performing AmeriCorps VISTA service. Such activities cannot be related to projects of the sponsoring organizations where the member serves. Moreover, AmeriCorps VISTA member may only participate in such activities to the extent that: (1) the member does not represent or attempt to represent the views of AmeriCorps VISTA members on any public issue; (2) the member's participation could not be reasonably understood by the community as being identified with the AmeriCorps VISTA program, the project, or other elements of his or her service; and (3) the member's participation does not interfere with the performance of his or her duties.
No sponsoring organization may approve an AmeriCorps VISTA member's involvement in planning, initiating, participating in, or otherwise aiding or assisting in any demonstration.
An AmeriCorps VISTA member must contact the Corporation State Office, and get its permission, before he/she engages in any of the activities-electoral, lobbying, or demonstration-discussed above.
LIMITATION ON DISPLACEMENT OF EMPLOYED WORKERS AND IMPAIRMENT OF CONTRACTS FOR SERVICEAmeriCorps VISTA members are prohibited from performing activities or duties that would otherwise be carried out by employed workers, or would supplant the hiring of, or result in the displacement of, employed workers, or would impair existing contracts for service (45 U.S.C. § 5044).
Corporation regulations on nondisplacement of employed workers and nonimpairment of contracts for service are contained in 45 CFR Part 1216 (see Appendix C).
LIMITATION ON RECEIVING ANY COMPENSATION OR OTHER BENEFITS FOR SERVICE OF AmeriCorps VISTA MEMBERS
Agencies or organizations to which AmeriCorps VISTA members are assigned, or which operate or supervise an AmeriCorps VISTA project, are prohibited from requesting or receiving any compensation from members, or from those who benefit from the services that members provide (42 U.S.C. § 5044). In addition, it is the policy of AmeriCorps VISTA that members not accept any benefit from the sponsoring organization or the community served through their AmeriCorps VISTA assignments, unless otherwise permitted by Corporation policy (such as housing, transportation, bus passes, and training materials and tools). Members are expected to serve the community, not themselves.
Cash or in-kind contributions to an AmeriCorps VISTA project, provided under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding between the primary AmeriCorps VISTA sponsoring organization and another participating agency, is not considered compensation for member services. The Corporation must, however, review and concur in all such Memoranda of Understanding prior to implementation.
LIMITATION ON LABOR OR ANTI-LABOR ACTIVITYCorporation funds must not be used, directly or indirectly, to finance labor or anti-labor organizations or related activities (42 U.S.C. § 5044). Consequently, an AmeriCorps VISTA member must not be assigned to activities or duties that assist, directly or indirectly, any labor or anti-labor organizing activity or related activity.
PROHIBITION ON NEPOTISMTo avoid actual or apparent favoritism in the operation of a VISTA project, the AmeriCorps VISTA program prohibits certain VISTA placement and assignment arrangements, as follows:
VISTA MembersA VISTA member cannot be placed or assigned to a VISTA project site , if the VISTA is:
VISTA Project Supervisory EmployeesA project site employee is prohibited from holding a VISTA project supervisory position, if she/he is:
LIMITATION ON AmeriCorps VISTA FRATERNIZATIONRelationships between AmeriCorps VISTA members and staff members (including volunteer and contracted personnel) of the Corporation, sponsoring organization, and project site that are exploitive or that have the appearance of partiality, preferential treatment, or the improper use of position for personal gain, are prejudicial to the morale of AmeriCorps VISTA members and will not be tolerated.
Inappropriate relationships between AmeriCorps VISTA members and the aforementioned staff members are prohibited. Inappropriate relationships are those that compromise, or appear to compromise, supervisory authority or could result in preferential treatment. Relationships are prohibited if they appear to involve the improper use of rank or position for personal gain.
You must avoid nonprofessional relationships with other AmeriCorps VISTA members or staff members that create real or perceived conflicts of interest, discord, or distractions that interfere with other members' productivity, or potentially could result in charges of sexual harassment. These problems are serious in situations in which one person has authority over another.
Nonprofessional relationships between members and the aforementioned staff include, but are not limited to:
Inappropriate relations include, but are not limited to:
 A VISTA sponsoring organization may operate a VISTA project out of a single project site, or multiple sites. When a “project site” is referenced, the prohibited arrangement is limited to that particular site, rather than a project as a whole.
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