Follow the rules for holiday gift giving

| December 18, 2014 | 0 Comments


There are guidelines to understand for gift-giving within the federal government (File photo)

There are guidelines to understand for gift-giving within the federal government (File photo)

Susan Bennett
Army News Service
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. — The holiday season should be a time to reflect, rejoice and renew, but it must be done within the ethical rules, so as to preserve professionalism and impartiality. The general rule is that federal personnel may not accept gifts offered because of their official positions.

Questions usually arise when supervisors or contractors are involved in the gift-giving. With the holidays approaching, employees should make sure they follow these important ethics rules.

Gifts from Contractors
Federal employees normally may not accept a gift from a contractor employee or any non-federal person or entity seeking to do business with the government. There are exceptions to the general rule:

•Federal personnel may accept gifts (other than cash) not exceeding $20 from a prohibited source, as long as the total amount of gifts from that source does not exceed $50 for the year.

•Federal personnel may accept gifts, even from a contractor employee, based on a bona fide personal relationship (for example, a federal employee may accept a gift from her brother who works for a contractor as long as the personal gift is actually paid for by the contractor employee rather than the contractor.)

•Federal personnel may generally attend an open-house or reception and accept any gift of refreshments if it is a widely-attended gathering and the employee’s supervisor determines it is in the agency’s interest for the employee to attend.

•Federal personnel may accept invitations (even from contractors) which are open to the public, to all government employees or to all military personnel.

•Federal personnel may accept invitations offered to a group or class not related to government employment (for example, an employee who is a garden club member may attend an event for the garden club offered by a company who is also a government contractor).

•Refreshments consisting of soft drinks, coffee, pastries or similar items not constituting a meal may be accepted, since they are not considered a gift.

•Outside business or other relationship results in attendance at an event. For example, a federal employee’s spouse works at BAE Systems. The federal employee may accompany the spouse to the BAE Systems’ holiday party, since the invitation is to the spouse as a BAE Systems employee and not to the federal employee because of his or her position.

Gifts Between Federal Employees
Gifts between supervisors and subordinates are covered by different ethics rules.

The general rule is supervisors may not accept gifts from subordinates or federal personnel who receive less pay. Again, there are exceptions to this general rule:

•During holidays, which occur on an occasional basis, supervisors may accept gifts (other than cash) of $10 or less from a subordinate.

•Supervisors may accept food and refreshments shared in the office and may share in the expenses of an office party.

•If a subordinate is invited to a social event at the supervisor’s residence, the subordinate may give the supervisor a hospitality gift of the type and value customarily given on such an occasion.

•If you are a supervisor, you may offer an invitation to subordinates for a party at your residence and accept a personal hospitality gift that is customarily provided on the occasion. If you are a subordinate, there are no restrictions on offering or accepting invitations to a party and a personal hospitality gift from your supervisor or a co-worker.

There are no legal restrictions on gifts given between non-supervisory employees or gifts given by a supervisor to subordinates. However, common sense (and good taste) should always apply!
(Note: Bennett works at the Anniston Army Depot Legal Office.)

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Category: Community, Observances

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