Frequently Asked Questions - Outside Work and Activities

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

Answer: 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.

Question: What types of outside work or activities don't require approval?

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

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

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

Conflicting outside employment and activities

Question: Under what circumstances would the Department deny my request to work part-time for an outside organization?

Answer: Denials are rare, but they do happen. For example, an employee sought approval to work part-time for a non-profit grantee of the Department. The employee's duties included monitoring the performance of the grantee, and her supervisor indicated that it was impossible to assign this project to a co-worker. The employee would be barred by law from doing her Department job if she took this part-time position. Therefore, the Department denied her request.

Question: How can I tell whether a proposed outside activity is "related to my duties"?

Answer: The definition includes, among other things:

  1. activities undertaken as part of your official duties;
  2. offers extended to you because of your official position, and not because of your expertise;
  3. offers extended to you by a person or group that has interests that may be affected substantially by the performance of your duties;
  4. matters dealing in significant part with any matter to which you are currently assigned or have been assigned within the past year; or
  5. matters dealing in significant part with any ongoing policy, program, or operation of the Department.

Question: You are an oil plant processor inspector 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 CFR §§ 2635.601-606 for rules on negotiating for employment. See also 5 CFR 2635.802

Question: Why do I have to get approval before serving on the Board of Directors of my child's school?

Answer: In most, if not all, cases, approval will be granted. However, because criminal conflict of interest statutes restrict some activities of Federal employees, the approval process gives the Ethics Office an opportunity to give you advice about these restrictions. For example, as a Federal employee, you may not represent the school before a Federal agency (such as the Internal Revenue Service). Further, even though you are not paid to serve on this Board, it would be a violation of a criminal law for you to participate in a particular matter at the Department that has a direct and predictable effect upon the financial interests of the school. Thus, absent a waiver, you are required to disqualify yourself from both general policy and specific party matters that involve the school or affect its financial interests.

Outside earned income limitations applicable to certain Presidential appointees and other non-career employees

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. Non-career Senior Executive Service employees at DOI 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. See 5 CFR § 2635.804

Service as an expert witness

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. See 5 CFR § 2635.805

Teaching, speaking and writing

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 DEO Form for outside work or activity. 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. See 5 CFR § 2635.807

Question: 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?

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

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

Answer: 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.