Looking for a New Job or Retiring from Federal Service? Know the Ethics Rules Before Walking Out the Door

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12/1/2021

As the year comes to a close, you may be considering taking the next steps in your career.  You might be thinking about a new position outside the Department of the Interior (DOI) or considering retiring from Federal service.  Wherever your next position takes you, it is important to remember that even after you leave DOI, important ethics rules will still apply to you.

While you are considering your next move, please also note that the “seeking employment” rules may be more restrictive than you realize.  The financial interests of any entity with which you are negotiating or have an arrangement concerning future employment are deemed to be the same as your own for purposes of the criminal conflict of interest rules.  There may be serious criminal or administrative penalties if you participate in certain DOI matters that affect the financial interests of a prospective employer.  In addition, employees who file a public financial disclosure report (OGE Form 278e) may be required to submit a written notification of any negotiation or agreement for non-federal employment.  More information on the ethics rules that apply when seeking employment may be found here.

The post-Government ethics restrictions do not bar you from accepting employment with any private or public employer.  They do, however, impose certain limitations on potential appearances and communications that you may make as a representative of a third party back to the Federal government, on assistance that you provide to third parties, and on profit-sharing with a future employer who did business with the Government while you were employed at DOI.  Simply put, these restrictions prohibit you from “switching sides” on a matter in which you were involved when you worked for DOI and preclude you from sharing in certain profits that your new employer may have received in connection with a matter that was pending before the Federal government during your DOI tenure.

More information on key post-employment ethics restrictions may be found here.  Certain employees may also be subject to additional restrictions based on their position, rate of pay, duties, and responsibilities.

Did you know that ethics officials are still available to provide guidance on the post-employment rules, even after you’ve left your DOI position?  Because the ethics rules on post-government employment are specific to the individual and because many of these restrictions carry criminal penalties, it is important that you exercise caution and seek guidance from an ethics official before and potentially after leaving DOI.  Please contact an ethics official with any questions about how the post-government restrictions will apply to you.

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