STANDARDS OF ETHICAL CONDUCT
This section provides general guidance on contacts with lobbyists, seeking work outside the Federal Government, post-employment restrictions, and the protection of Federal records from unauthorized removal.
For answers to specific questions, guidance should be sought from agency ethics officials.
All Executive Branch employees are subject to the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, 5 CFR part 2635. The standards include 14 basic principles of ethical conduct and provide uniform rules about gifts from outside sources, gifts between employees, conflicting financial interests, impartiality in performing official duties, seeking other employment, misuse of position, and outside activities. Some employees are also subject to supplemental regulations if promulgated by their agencies.
Each agency head is responsible for administering that agency's ethics program and for appointing a Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO) and an Alternate DAEO who, along with their supporting ethics officials, administer the agency's ethics program. The agency's ethics program office is generally responsible for the following:
Providing ethics training and education programs
Reviewing Financial disclosure reports
Monitoring administrative actions and sanctions for ethics violations; and
Communicating with the Office of Government Ethics
The OGE provides overall policy leadership for executive branch departments and agencies. OGE reviews public financial disclosure reports of Executive Branch Presidential appointees requiring Senate confirmation and certain White House officials to determine whether any entries on the forms may give rise to potential or actual violations of applicable laws or regulations and to recommend any appropriate corrective action. OGE also provides advice on other ethics matters for new Presidential appointees, Senior Executive Service (SES) appointees, and Schedule C employees. Schedule C employees are excepted from the competitive service because they have policy-determining responsibilities or are required to serve in a confidential relationship to a key official.
Back to Top
Lobbying Disclosure Act
The Lobbying Disclosure Act, Public Law 104-65 (2 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.), imposes disclosure and registration requirements on lobbyists who contact covered Legislative and Executive Branch officials. It also requires that a "covered Executive Branch official" who is contacted by a lobbyist disclose the fact that he or she is a covered Executive Branch official upon the request of the person making the lobbyist contact. "Covered Executive Branch officials" are:
The Vice President;
Any officer or employee, or any other individual functioning in the capacity if such an officer or an employee, in the Executive Office of the President;
Any officer or employee serving in a position in Level I, II, III, IV, or V of the Executive Schedule, as designated by Statute or Executive Order;
Any member of the Uniformed Services whose pay grade is at or above O-7 under 37 U.S.C. 201; and
Any individual serving in a position of a confidential policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character described in 5 U.S.C. 7511(b)(2)(B).
Generally, the Act applies to Presidential Appointees requiring Senate confirmation (PAS) and Schedule C employees, but does not apply to members of the SES (unless they meet the criteria in C or D, above). If you have any questions about who is considered a lobbyist, how you should respond to contacts from lobbyists and what your responsibilities are under the Act, you should contact your Agency's General Counsel.
Federal Employees Seeking Non-Federal Employment
Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 208, Executive Branch employees are generally prohibited from performing work in their Government jobs on matters that would affect the financial interest of someone with whom they are negotiating for employment. The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Executive Branch employees [5 CFR part 2635] have a similar rule that applies even before back-and-forth negotiations begin, and may apply before an employee has even sent a resume to a prospective employer. Participation in some procurement matters can subject employees to additional requirements relating to private employment contracts.
In accordance with the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (STOCK Act), any employee who is required to file a public financial disclosure report must file a signed notification statement with his or her agency ethics official within three business days after commencing negotiations or entering into an agreement with a non-Federal entity to accept post-Government employment or compensation. The statement must identify the entity and specify the date of negotiations or agreement commenced. A public filer must also document his/her disqualification from any particular matter that would have a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of the entity and submit that signed disqualification document to his or her agency ethics official.
Employees should be careful not to misuse Government resources (such as official time, the services of other employees, equipment, supplies, or restricted information) in connection with job-seeking. After an employee has accepted a job outside the Government, he or she must continue to refrain from working on matters in his or her Government job that would affect the financial interest of the future employer.
If an agency offers outplacement services to all its employees, departing non-career employees may use these services. However, an agency may not establish outplacement services for non-career employees only. [See Appendix A, Question 6, for additional information]
There are certain restrictions on employees after their separation from Government service. Generally, these restrictions apply to representational activities, and their application varies depending on the employees' duties and level of authority [18 U.S.C. Section 207]. Additional restrictions were imposed by Executive Order 13490. Information on these restrictions may be accessed at the Office of Government Ethics website (www.oge.gov), including FAQ's on Post-Employment under the Ethics Pledge. Agency ethics officials are also able to provide more specific advice on post-employment restrictions before and after Government service.
Protecting Federal Records from Unauthorized Removal
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) guidance reminds heads of Federal agencies that official records must remain in the custody of the agency. Federal officials should be aware that there are criminal penalties for the unlawful removal or destruction of Federal records [18 U.S.C.2071] and the unlawful disclosure of national security information [18 U.S.C. 793, 794, and 798]. Departing Federal officials should contact their agency records officer if they have questions maintaining and disposing of records and extra copies of records.
Agency records officers should have copies of Documenting Your Public Service and Agency Recordkeeping Requirements, two NARA Publications that address records creation and maintenance procedures and distinguishing between records and personal documentary materials. These publications are available on the NARA website at:
https://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/policy/agency-recordkeeping-requirements.html, respectively. NARA records management regulations address the identification and protection of Federal records and are also accessible at 36 CFR Chapter XII, Subchapter B.
Back to Top