Frequently Asked Questions - Seeking Non-Federal Employment

Question: May I talk to a DOI contractor/grantor/lessor about a job?

Answer: Maybe. An Executive Branch employee may not participate in any particular government matter that will affect the financial interests of a person or entity with whom he or she is seeking employment. An employee is considered to be seeking employment if --

  • the employee is engaged in actual negotiations for employment
  • a potential employer has contacted the employee about possible employment and the employee makes a response other than rejection, or
  • the employee has contacted the employer about possible employment (unless the sole purpose of the contact is to request a job application or if the person contacted is affected by the performance of the employee's duties only as part of an industry).

An employee is considered to be no longer seeking employment if --

  • either the employee or the prospective employer rejects the possibility of employment and all discussions of possible employment have ended, or
  • two months have elapsed since the employee's dispatch of an unsolicited resume and the employee has received no expression of interest from the prospective employer.

In some cases, you may be authorized by an Agency official to participate in particular matters from which you would otherwise have to be disqualified due to your job search.

If a search firm or other intermediary is involved, the employee is not disqualified unless the intermediary identifies the prospective employer to the employee.

Please contact your Ethics Advisor if you are in the Senior Executive Service or are seeking employment with a prospectie employer you work with in your official capacity.

Question: Terri and Leslie have been golfing friends for years. Leslie owns XCorp, a company with no interests affected by Terri's Federal office. At the course, they link up and play with Sue who runs YCorp., one of XCorp's subsidiaries. During the round, Sue learns that Terri is looking to leave her Federal job and tells Terri that she would be interested in considering Terri for a management position with YCorp. Terri tells Sue that the offer is interesting but that she's not sure she's ready to leave just yet. Sue tells Terri “no rush.” On Monday, Terri holds a meeting with several companies to discuss modifications that the agency desires to a partnering agreement that the agency has with those companies. Terri sees Sue at the meeting and they exchange pleasantries. Sue then leads the meeting representing her company in the discussions on proposed modifications. Is there a problem?

Answer: Terri could have a big problem. Federal employees are barred by a criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. 208, from participating personally and substantially in any particular matter affecting their financial interests. Imputed to the Federal employee are the financial interests of any person with whom the employee has, or is negotiating, an agreement or arrangement for non-Federal employment. Here, Terri is leading a meeting that will likely affect the financial interest of YCorp. Because Terri left open the possibility of post-government employment with YCorp., that company's financial interests are imputed to her. She could well be in violation of 18 U.S.C. 208. However, even if she has not crossed that threshold, the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, 5 CFR part 2635, expand this principle to prohibit participating in such matters when the employee is “seeking” non-Federal employment. Even if not negotiating, Terri is “seeking.” Even if not prosecuted, she could be fired or otherwise disciplined.