STANDARDS OF ETHICAL CONDUCT
This section provides guidance on seeking employment outside the Federal Government, post Government employment restrictions and gifts for departing officials.
FEDERAL EMPLOYEES SEEKING NON-FEDERAL EMPLOYMENT
As a basic rule of thumb, employees are considered to be seeking employment when the employee, or a headhunter working on the employee’s behalf, contact a prospective employer about possible employment.
While job seeking, and after accepting a job outside the government, the employee must refrain from working on any official matters that could have a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of a potential non-Federal employer. When appropriate, the employee must submit a written disqualification through the employee’s supervisor to his/her ethics office. Individuals involved in procurement issues may be subject to further restrictions and should call their ethics office for further guidance.
An employee may accept payment of expenses, e.g., meals, transportation, and lodging from potential employees in connection with bona fide employment discussions (e.g., interview at corporate headquarters). Payments exceeding $375 must be reported on the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Form 278e, Public Financial Disclosure Report. Be careful not to misuse Government resources (such as official time, the services of other employees, equipment, supplies, or non-public information) in connection with job-seeking.
FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE TERMINATION REPORT
Employees who file the OGE Form 278e must prepare and submit a termination report to their ethics office. The termination report is due no earlier than your last day of Government service and no later than 30 days thereafter. Employees may request an extension of the filing period by contacting their ethics office. Employees who fail to file the report in a timely manner may be assessed a $200 penalty. Additionally, employees who knowingly or willfully fail to file a report may be referred to the Department of Justice for civil or criminal action. Employees should file the electronic termination OGE Form 278e to their ethics office on their last day by using the Financial Disclosure Management (FDM) electronic system.
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Executive branch employees are subject to certain restrictions on their activity after they leave Government service (See 18 U.S.C. § 207). Generally, these restrictions apply to representational activities and their application varies depending on the employee’s duties and level of authority.
The primary post-employment restriction, applicable to all employees, prohibits a former employee from communicating with the intent to influence any employee of the Executive or Judicial Branch on behalf of another person or entity, on any particular matter involving specific parties, (i.e., matters that involve deliberation, decision, or action that is focused on the interests of specific persons or a discrete and substantially involved while in Government service. This is a lifetime ban that begins when an employee terminates Government service. It is designed to prevent a former employee who participated in a particular matter while with the Government from “switching sides,” (i.e., representing a non-Federal entity on the same matter before the United States). This restriction would not preclude a former employee from providing “behind-the-scenes” assistance on such a matter. Behind the scenes assistance consists of, for example, providing advice on how a certain process works or whom to contact at the former agency for further information.
A similar restriction, applicable only to supervisory employees, applies for two years after an employee’s departure from Federal service. A supervisory employee is prohibited from communicating with the intent to influence, regarding a particular matter involving specific parties which was pending under his/her official responsibility during the last year of his/her public service. This prohibition applies even though the supervisor may not have participated personally and substantially on the matter. “Particular matter” has the same meaning for this ban as it does for the lifetime ban.
For a period of 1 year after leaving a senior position, former senior officials may not make any communication or appearance on behalf of any other person, with intent to influence, before any officer or employee of the agency or agencies in which the individual served within 1 year prior to leaving the senior position, in connection with any matter on which official action is sought by such individual. Senior officials include civilian personnel whose rate of base pay is at or above 86.5% of the rate for Executive Schedule II ($160,111.50 in 2016) and Flag and General Officers.
Political appointees are subject to additional restrictions outlined in the Obama Ethics Pledge Executive Order No. 13490, “Prescribing Standards of Ethical Conduct for Government Officers and Employees” (Jan. 21, 2009). First, the Ethics Pledge extends the one-year cooling off period for a second year for all political appointees who qualify as senior employees (i.e., an appointee with a base salary equal to or greater than $160,111.50 in 2016). Second, the Ethics Pledge prohibits all former political appointees from lobbying any covered Executive Branch official for the remainder of the Obama Administration. “Covered official” includes flag and general officers and any political appointee in any Federal agency. It does not cover career SES officials. To “lobby” means to act as a “registered lobbyist” as defined by the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
Further, employees who have participated in procurement, valued in excess of $10M, or in Trade or Treaty negotiations within their last year of public service may be subject to additional restrictions and should contact their ethics office for information.
Section 847 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 requires certain current or former DoD officials who, within two (2) years of leaving DoD, expect to receive compensation from a defense contractor to request and receive a written opinion regarding the applicability of post-employment restrictions to activities that official may undertake on behalf of a defense contractor before receiving pay. The Act further imposes penalties on DoD contractors that pay individuals who did not request or receive post-employment advice.
Before leaving Federal service, all OSD employees should contact their ethics office to determine whether they are required to receive an ethics briefing by an ethics counselor.
More information on post-employment restrictions can be found on the Standards of Conduct Office (SOCO) website http://www.dod.mil/dodgc/defense_ethics/. Questions may be directed to your ethics office.
Gifts accepted on behalf of the Department are not personal property and may not be removed (See DoD Directive 1005.13, “Gifts and Decorations from Foreign Governments,” February 19, 2002.) If these gifts were displayed in a DoD employee’s office, they must be turned in to the component Administrative Officer (AO) for appropriate disposition upon the employee’s departure.
Gifts accepted in a personal capacity during an employee’s DoD tenure are personal property and may be removed. Please call your ethics office if you have questions regarding gifts accepted during your employment at DoD.
For departing DoD employees, the gift rules apply to acceptance of gifts presented in recognition of your service and impending departure. The applicable rules are as follows.
Gifts from Employees
Employees are generally prohibited from giving or soliciting contributions for gifts to someone who is their official superior. Additionally, employees are generally prohibited from accepting gifts from employees who receive less pay, unless there is no subordinate-official superior relationship, and a personal relationship justifies the gift.
An exception to the general prohibition on gifts permits subordinates to give a gift appropriate to the occasion, to a superior on special-infrequent occasions. Infrequently occurring occasions include termination of the official subordinate-superior relationship through retirement, resignation, or transfer. At DoD, the value of such special, infrequent occasion gifts is limited to $300 for each "donating group” gift.
A DoD employee may solicit other DoD employees in the donating group for a voluntary, nominal contribution not to exceed $10.00 towards a group gift for a departing superior. Contractors may neither solicit for, nor be asked to, contribute towards a “group gift.”
While DoD employees cannot be asked to donate more than $10.00, they may voluntarily contribute more than the nominal amount (i.e., more than $10.00), but the donation should not be solicited by official superiors. An additional voluntary contribution of a nominal amount for food, refreshments and entertainment for the event may be solicited as a separate, voluntary contribution not subject to the $10.00 limit. Alternatively, employees may make a single contribution to the cost of a departing superior’s farewell lunch and gift, but this amount will be aggregated towards the $300 limit.
Gifts from Outside Sources
DoD employees are generally restricted from accepting gifts from "prohibited sources" (i.e., DoD contractors) or accepting gifts offered because of their official position. However, DoD employees may accept items of little intrinsic value intended solely for presentation such as certificates, plaques, and photographs. DoD employees may also accept gifts with a market value of $20 or less, not to exceed $50 in a calendar year from any one source.
For further guidance on topics in this section please consult your ethics office.
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