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Impartiality in Performing Official Duties

Executive branch employees are required to consider whether their impartiality may be questioned. Matters involving a pending case, contract, grant, permit, license or loan are some examples of particular matters involving specific parties; while general rulemaking, on the other hand, is not.

If a matter has an effect on the financial interest of the employee's household, or if a person with whom the employee has a "covered relationship" is or represents a party to a matter, then the employee must consider whether a reasonable person would question their impartiality in the matter. If the employee concludes that there would be an apparent problem, then they should not participate in the matter unless authorized by the agency.

Covered Relationships

A covered relationship is one that:

  • a person with whom the employee has or seeks a business, contractual or other financial relationship
  • a person who is a member of the employee's household or with whom the employee has a close personal relationship
  • a person for whom the employee's spouse, parent or dependent child serves as an officer, director, trustee, general partner, agent, attorney, consultant, contractor or employee
  • any person for whom the employee has within the last year served as officer, director, trustee, general partner, agent, attorney, consultant, contractor or employee, or
  • any organization in which the employee is an active participant.

In the event that issues not included in the regulation arise, the employee should follow the procedures described in the regulation to determine whether participation would be appropriate.

Some employees who enter Government service may receive a special severance payment or benefit which their former employer does not make to other departing employees. If payment made prior to entering Government service is in excess of $10,000, and if certain other factors are present, the employee is disqualified for two years from participating in any matter in which the former employer is a party or represents a party. The agency may waive or shorten the disqualification period.


Reference: 5 C.F.R. § § 2635.501-503.

Please contact our office if you have any questions regarding ethics.

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  • Page last reviewed: December 18, 2015
  • Page last updated: December 18, 2015
  • Content source: CDC and ATSDR Ethics Program
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