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Frequently Asked Questions

Question Index

Gifts

Q: May I accept a gift from someone outside the Government that I do business with?

A: The general rule is a Federal employee may not solicit or accept gifts given because of the employee´s official position or gifts offered by a "prohibited source". A prohibited source is any person or organization that seeks to do business with CDC or has interests that may be affected by the performance or non-performance of your official duties. Certain exceptions apply. Please contact the Ethics Office for details.

Q: May I accept a gift from or give a gift to my boss?

A: You may accept a gift from your boss, but the general rule is that you cannot give, make a donation to, or ask for contributions for a gift to your boss or other superior.

Q: May I collect money for a group gift for my boss?

A: The general rule is NO. A Federal employee may not give a gift or make a donation toward a gift for an official superior. Nor may an employee solicit a contribution from another employee for a gift for his or the other employee´s superior. There are exceptions for special, infrequent occasions, such as a birth, marriage, illness, or an occasion that ends the employee-boss relationship, such as retirement, resignation, or transfer. PLEASE NOTE: Holidays and birthdays are not considered "special, infrequent occasions".

Q: May I give or receive a gift from a fellow employee?

A: It depends. A Federal employee may not accept a gift from a lower-paid employee unless there is a personal relationship that justifies the gift.


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Conflict of Interest

Q: What creates a conflict of interest?

A: Circumstances when your Government work may benefit you or your family personally, or may affect individuals or organizations that you have some connection with outside your Government job.

Q: How is a conflict of interest resolved?

A: The agency can often reassign the job to another employee, but if it means you cannot do the job the Government hired you to do, you may have to get rid of the interest that is causing the conflict.

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Outside Activities

Q: Must I obtain approval for work outside the Government?

A: It depends on what you do and who you do it for. Generally, activities such as teaching, speaking, writing, professional and consultative services, outside private practice, service on boards or committees, or other activities which specifically employ the general professional expertise related to your responsibilities require advance approval.

Q: What types of outside work or activities don´t require approval?

A: Memberships in charitable, religious, social, fraternal, recreational, public service, or civic organizations need not be approved.

Q: I am a member of a professional society. Do I need approval?

A: You are encouraged to participate in professional societies, but participation beyond ordinary membership (e.g., holding office, committee membership) must be approved in advance.

Q: I have been invited to mentor young women living with AIDS for a local non-profit organization. The mentoring project is funded by HHS. The organization plans to compensate me for my time spent mentoring. May I do this?

A: CDC employees are prohibited from receiving compensation for outside employment in HHS-funded activities. In this instance, you may provide the mentoring services on a volunteer basis but you may not be paid for your time. This is the case even if the organization indicates that your salary will come form a non-HHS-funded account.

Q: I have been asked to assist a local university with the preparation of a grant application that will be submitted to CDC for funding. I will not be offered or accept any compensation for my assistance. May I do this?

A: No. According to PGO, CDC employees may not assist with the preparation of grant applications, contract proposals or other funding mechanisms to be submitted to CDC for funding.

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Official Duties

Q: Must I obtain approval for work outside the Government?

A: It depends on what you do and who you do it for. Generally, activities such as teaching, speaking, writing, professional and consultative services, outside private practice, service on boards or committees, or other activities which specifically employ the general professional expertise related to your responsibilities require advance approval.

Q: What types of outside work or activities don´t require approval?

A: Memberships in charitable, religious, social, fraternal, recreational, public service, or civic organizations need not be approved.

Q: I am a member of a professional society. Do I need approval?

A: You are encouraged to participate in professional societies, but participation beyond ordinary membership (e.g., holding office, committee membership) must be approved in advance.

Q: I have been invited to mentor young women living with AIDS for a local non-profit organization. The mentoring project is funded by HHS. The organization plans to compensate me for my time spent mentoring. May I do this?

A: CDC employees are prohibited from receiving compensation for outside employment in HHS-funded activities. In this instance, you may provide the mentoring services on a volunteer basis but you may not be paid for your time. This is the case even if the organization indicates that your salary will come form a non-HHS-funded account.

Q: I have been asked to assist a local university with the preparation of a grant application that will be submitted to CDC for funding. I will not be offered or accept any compensation for my assistance. May I do this?

A: No. According to PGO, CDC employees may not assist with the preparation of grant applications, contract proposals or other funding mechanisms to be submitted to CDC for funding.

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Honoraria

Q: Last week, I gave a speech as a part of my official duties and the organization I spoke to sent me an honorarium. May I keep it?

A: NO. Federal employees may not accept any contribution or supplementation of their government salary for the performance of an official duty.

Q: Since I cannot personally accept an honoraria for an official duty, may I authorize the organization to donate the money to a charity (i.e. the CDC foundation) on my behalf?

A: Federal employees are prohibited from designating a person or an organization, including charitable or non-profit organizations, to accept any compensation which an employee is prohibited from accepting directly. Compensation paid to another person, including a charitable organization, on the basis of designation, recommendation or other specification by the employee is deemed received by the employee.

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Official Duty or Outside Activity

Q: How do I determine whether a proposed activity should be done as an Official Duty Activity or Outside Activity?

A: First, determine whether the invitation was made because of your official position. If yes, the activity should probably be done as Official Duty, which means that you do it on official time and may use government resources to prepare for the activity. For an official duty activity, you MAY NOT ACCEPT any kind of remuneration since you are already getting paid a salary to cover official activities; however, expenses could be reimbursed via Sponsored Travel. If the invitation is not related to your current official duties, you may conduct it as an Outside Activity. You must complete the form HHS 520 to request permission BEFORE conducting the activity. Because it is not related to your official duties, you should not use government resources to prepare for the activity. (Note: If you file a financial disclosure report, the activity and any income received in excess of the reporting threshold must be reported on your financial disclosure report.)

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Confidential Financial Disclosure Reporting

Q: Why am I required to file a Confidential Financial Disclosure Report, OGE 450?

A: The management in your program office has determined that the nature of duties of your position may involve a potential conflict of interest. Examples include contracting, procurement, administering grants and licenses, regulating/auditing non-Federal entities, other activities having a substantial economic effect on non-Federal entities, or law enforcement.

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Political Activity

Q: Am I allowed to participate in political activities?

A: The Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993 authorize covered federal employees to participate in the management of partisan political activities on their own time and away from the federal workplace. These include assisting in voter registration drives, attending political fundraising functions, serving as an officer of a political party, organization, or club, and campaigning for or against candidates.

Q:I am a Commissioned Officer. Do the Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993 apply to me?

A: Commissioned Officers and SES employees are prohibited from taking an active part of the management of partisan political campaigns or activities.

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Post-employment Restrictions

Q: I´m interested in leaving the Government and working for a company that my agency does business with? May I give the company my resume?

A: You may; however, the prospective employer could be affected by projects and other matters you work on for the Government. If the projects to which you are assigned affect your prospective employer, then you may need to stop working on, i.e., recuse or disqualify yourself from that project.

Q: I´m leaving Federal Service to work for a Government contractor. Is there a problem?

A: There could be a problem. You are generally free to go to work for any employer, but you cannot try to influence the Government on behalf of that contractor if you were involved with the contract while you worked for the Government.

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Recusals

Q: What is recusal and how do I do it?

A: Recusal or disqualification simply means not participating in a matter. You should inform the person responsible for your work assignments. If you are responsible for your own assignments, you should take whatever steps are necessary to ensure nonparticipation. Either you or your supervisor may give appropriate oral or written notice to your coworkers.

Q: I have sent a resume to Company X. I have never worked on any matters affecting the firm or its particular industry and do not expect this to change. Do I need to disqualify myself?

A: Disqualification is necessary only where you are assigned to a particular matter that will affect the financial interests of the potential employer or a discrete class of persons, of which it is a member.

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  • Page last reviewed: June 9, 2009
  • Page last updated: June 9, 2009
  • Content source: CDC and ATSDR Ethics Program
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