- Conflicting outside employment and activities
- Prior approval for outside employment and activities
- Outside earned income limitations
- Service as an expert witness
- Participation in professional associations
- Teaching, speaking and writing
- Fundraising activities
- Just financial obligations
a. Conflicting outside employment and activities (Section 2635.802).
Answer: There is no difference in the test applied by the regulation. A Federal employee seeking employment outside the Government "shall not participate personally and substantially in a particular matter that, to his knowledge, has a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of a prospective employer with whom he is seeking employment." Section 2635.604(a).
Question: You are an AMS meat grader assigned to a specific processor on a full-time basis. The plant offers you part-time employment as a night watchman. May you accept?
Answer: No. The employer's financial interest is imputed to you, and you would be disqualified from performing any of your grading duties at any plant operated by that processor. Since you could not perform your duties, you are prohibited from the employment. Additionally, you could not perform your duties while negotiating for employment with the processor. See 5 C.F.R. 2635.601 - 606 for rules on negotiating for employment.
Question: I have an employee who is a technician in a local office. She is a notary (at our expense) and has been approached by mortgage companies to notarize loan closings after hours and on weekends. My feelings are this would be a conflict of interest as the agency paid for the notary. She prepares loan closings now but the supervisor meets with the borrowers and financial officers. Can this be approved to outside employment?
Answer: No. As USDA paid the whole charge for the notary license, the license is government property and may not be used other than for the conduct of government work (see Misuse of Position). A notary may, however, be authorized to provide his or her services to co-workers on an occasional basis.
b. Prior approval for outside employment and activities (Section 2635.803).
Question: Does the Department require employees to request prior approval for outside employment?
Answer: Yes, if the employee is required to file an SF 278 Public Financial Disclosure Report, an OGE Form 450 Confidential Financial Disclosure Report, or an alternate form which has been approved by OGE. You may access the requirements at 5 C.F.R. § 8301.102, and they are on our website under Rules of the Road, “USDA Supplemental Regulations.” The regulation includes additional rules for employees of the Farm Service Agency, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Office of the General Counsel, and Office of Inspector General.
c. Outside earned income limitations applicable to certain Presidential appointees and other noncareer employees (Section 2635.804).
Question: Are all employees subject to restrictions on outside earned income?
Answer: No, only senior non-career personnel. Presidential appointees with Senate Confirmation are subject to a total ban on outside earned income during their tenure. These officers include the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Under and Assistant Secretaries, General Counsel, Chief Financial Officer, Inspector General, and Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service. Non-career Senior Executive Service employees at USDA are subject to a limitation on outside earned income - no more than 15% of the annual rate of basic pay for Level II of the Executive Schedule.
d. Service as an expert witness (Section 2635.805).
Question: My training and experience uniquely qualify me as an expert in my field, and I am often asked to serve in civil trials as an expert witness. What should I do if I receive a request for such service on behalf of a non-Federal party?
Answer: Contact your ethics official. Service as an expert witness does require prior approval by an ethics official with authority to give it. Requirements for approval are strictly observed. Each occasion must be individually considered.
e. Participation in professional associations [Reserved] (Section 2635.806).
Question: The Standards do not include specific rules on participation in professional associations. Does that mean that no rules apply and that any activity in a professional association is acceptable?
Answer: No. Based on opinions of the Department of Justice, we have developed a considerable body of advice on the relationship of an employee, in his or her official capacity, to professional organizations. It is too extensive to repeat here. We ask that you access the information at other points on our USDA website, including Ethics Issuance 00-1 (“Participation in Non-Federal Organizations”) under Rules of the Road and the training module on “Participation in Outside Organizations.”
f. Teaching, speaking and writing (Section 2635.807).
Question: I am a C.P.A. employed as a budget officer in my agency. A university in my city has a course on accounting procedures in the Federal Government. The university has invited me to teach the course as a compensated instructor. I have been employed by the Department since I served as an intern during my undergraduate years. Everything I know, I learned working for the Government. Does that disqualify me from teaching the course?
Answer: No, although you should still request approval under the USDA Supplemental Standards of Ethical Conduct. Notwithstanding the fact that the university has extended the offer to teach because of your position and reputation in the Federal budget community, and/or notwithstanding the fact that you will deal with matters to which you are presently assigned, the Standards provide that you may accept compensation for teaching a course requiring multiple presentations as part of the regularly established curriculum of an institution of higher education. You may not use non-public information in your instruction. “Non-public” means that the information has not been released to the public through, for example, a professional article or would not be released as a result of a request under the Freedom of Information Act. A "regularly established curriculum" could be established by the university listing the course in its catalogue or by other evidence that the university intends the course to be a recurring part of its degree or certificate programs.
g. Fundraising activities (Section 2635.808).
Question: An employee has a child who needs a transplant. The employee has spent all he has trying to care for the child. May we ask coworkers of the employee to donate money to help the child?
Answer: Yes. The Standards define fundraising (Section 2635.808(a)(1)) as the raising of funds for a “non-profit organization.” As framed, the question does not meet the definition of fundraising. The applicable rules are those involving “Gifts Between Employees,” Sections 2635.301 through 2635.304. Further, the situation meets the definition of special or infrequent occasion for purposes of one receiving a gift from a subordinate or one receiving less pay. An employee may solicit voluntary contributions of nominal amounts from fellow employees for an appropriate gift to an official superior and an employee may make a voluntary contribution of a nominal amount to an appropriate gift to an official superior on special or infrequent occasions such as the illness described in the question.
Question: In my private capacity and on non-work time may I participate in fundraising activities for a charity or school?
Answer: Yes. In soliciting funds, however, you may not identify yourself as a Federal employee; and you may not use your position title or the name of the Department or your Agency. You also may not make direct solicitations to subordinates or prohibited sources.
Question: I know that employee associations can solicit among their own members for contributions to be used for the benefit of all members of the association. Such events as cake sales commonly occur. May we raise money by conducting raffles for tangible items or for money?
Answer: No. A raffle is a gambling activity expressly prohibited by the Office of Personnel Management at 5 CFR § 735.201.
h. Just financial obligations (Section 2635.809).
Question: I know that Federal employees must pay their taxes. Does the requirement extend to debts to private creditors?
Answer: Yes. You are required to exhibit an honest intention to fulfill any just financial obligation in a timely manner. This does not require an Agency to determine the validity or amount of a disputed debt or to collect a debt on the alleged creditor's behalf; however, the Agency is required to process legal judgments that garnish the pay of the employee.