Outside Work and Activities

Outside work or activities are generally permitted unless they are prohibited by statute or regulation, or would require the employee's disqualification from matters central or critical to the performance of his or her official duties.

DOI Regulation 5 C.F.R. § 3501.105 requires all Department employees to seek prior written approval from a Departmental or bureau ethics counselor before engaging in employment with a prohibited source. The Outside Work or Activities Form is used to obtain approval from your ethics counselor.  For this purpose, the definition of prohibited source is any person, company, or organization that has business with your agency, is seeking to do business with your agency, conducts operations that are regulated by your agency, or has any interests that might be affected by the performance or nonperformance of your official duties. The separate agency components within the Department are the same as for "Gifts from Domestic and Private Sources". Section 5 C.F.R. § 3501.102. Check with your office or bureau ethics counselor for any office-specific or bureau-specific procedures or restrictions that may apply to your situation.


Employment means any form of non-Federal business relationship involving the provision of personal services by the employee, with or without compensation.  It would include the provision of personal services as officer, director, employee, agent, attorney, consultant, contractor, general partner, trustee, teacher, or speaker.  It does not, however, include participation in the activities, e.g., membership, of a non-profit charitable, religious, professional, social, fraternal, educational, recreational, public service, or civic organization, unless the participation is the provision of compensated professional services or advice.

Example:  An employee sought approval to work part-time for a non-profit grantee of the Department. The employee's official duties included monitoring the performance of the grantee, and her supervisor indicated that it was impossible to assign this project to a co-worker.  Because the employee would be prohibited from doing important aspects of her job (she would be disqualified under the conflict of interest rules from working on matters that could affect the financial interests of her part-time employer), the Department denied her request.

Presidentially appointed confirmed by the Senate employees (PAS) may pursue certain outside activities after consultation with the Departmental Ethics Office. PAS officials may not receive outside earned income for engaging in any such activity. Noncareer SES employees may not in any calendar year, receive outside earned income that exceeds 15% of the annual rate of basic pay for level II of the Executive Schedule ($28,050 effective January 1, 2018).  These non-career employees have additional outside earned income and employment and affiliation restrictions and should consult with an ethics counselor before engaging in any outside activity.

All outside work or activities must take place outside official duty hours or while on authorized leave. You may not use or permit the use of your official title or position in your outside work or activities. See exceptions under Reference to Official Position below.

Serving as an Expert Witness - 5 C.F.R. § 2635.805

You may not serve, with or without compensation, as an expert witness, in your private capacity in any proceeding before a court or agency of the United States in which the U.S. is a party or has a direct or substantial interest, without prior approval from the head of the Departmental Ethics Office [the Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO)].

If you are subpoenaed to testify as an expert in any such matter, you must notify your supervisor and the DAEO immediately and request approval to proceed.

If you receive DAEO approval, you must still comply with DOI and bureau work and outside activity requirements. For instance, all DOI employees must obtain prior approval to work (paid or unpaid) for a prohibited source , and all USGS employees must obtain prior approval for any outside work or activity that is related to their USGS duties or the USGS mission.

Teaching, Speaking, and Writing - 5 C.F.R. § 2635.807

Generally, you may not receive compensation, other than travel expenses, for outside teaching, speaking, or writing that relates to your official duties.

For purposes of this regulation, a teaching, speaking, or writing activity relates to your official duties if:

  • The activity is undertaken as part of your official duties;
  • The circumstances indicate that the invitation to engage in the activity was extended to you primarily because of your official position rather than your expertise on the particular subject matter;
  • The invitation to engage in the activity or the offer of compensation for the activity was extended to you by a person who has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of your official duties;
  • The information conveyed through the activity draws substantially on nonpublic information; or
  • The subject of the activity deals in significant part with:
    1. A matter to which you are presently assigned or to which you have been assigned during the previous year; or
    2. Any ongoing announced policy, program, or operation of DOI or your office or bureau.

Exception for Teaching Certain Courses - Even if the subject matter relates to your official duties, you may accept compensation for teaching a course requiring multiple presentations offered as the regularly established curriculum of an accredited institution of higher education, a secondary school, an elementary school, or a program of education sponsored and funded by the Federal Government or by a state or local government. You may only receive compensation under these circumstances for outside teaching, not for teaching carried out as part of your official responsibilities. If the class involves providing services to prohibited sources, prior approval is required. It is recommended you contact your ethics counselor to determine if you can receive compensation for speaking, teaching, and outside-work related to your official duties.

Reference to Official Position - If you are engaged in teaching, speaking, or writing as an outside activity, you may not use or permit the use of your official title or position except:

  • You may include your title or position as one of several biographical details when such information is given to identify you, provided that it is not given more prominence than other significant biographical details.
  • You may use your title or position in connection with an article published in a scientific or professional journal, provided that it is accompanied by a disclaimer that the views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of DOI or the United States Government.
  • If you are ordinarily addressed using a general term of address such as "The Honorable," or a rank, such as a military or ambassadorial rank, you may use that term of address or rank.

Prior Approval Requirements - Before engaging in any outside teaching, speaking, or writing for compensation, make sure that you comply with Department and bureau prior approval requirements for outside activities and employment. (See DOI regulation 5 C.F.R. § 3501.105 or See paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 above.)

Example:  You are a C.P.A. employed as a budget officer in your agency.  A local university has a course on accounting procedures in the Federal Government. The university has invited you to teach the course as a compensated instructor.  You have been employed by the Department since you first served as an intern while doing your undergraduate studies 20 years ago.  Everything you know about accounting, you learned working for the Government.  Even though the subject of the course would otherwise appear to relate to your official duties, 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 and may not use, or permit the use of your official title or position to identify yourself in connection with this activity, except as part of other biographical details.  See 5 C.F.R. § 2635.807.  If the University is a prohibited source for your agency, prior approval would be required.

Fundraising - 5 C.F.R. § 2635.808

The general rule on fundraising can be found at 5 C.F.R. § 2635.808. Unless permitted by law, regulation or special authority, Department employees may not engage in any form of fundraising in the workplace. This includes but is not limited to, conducting raffles, lotteries, bake sales, carnivals, athletic events, etc. for charitable organizations. 

In your official capacity- An employee may participate in fundraising in an official capacity only as authorized by statute, Executive Order, or regulation.  When authorized to participate in fundraising in an official capacity, an employee may use his official title, postion and authority.

The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) and special disaster relief solicitations approved by Office of Personnel Management are generally the only authorized solicitations of employees for charitable fundraising in the Federal workplace. The rules governing acceptable fundraising activities by Federal employees are described in 5 C.F.R. part 950

In your personal capacity - An employee may generally engage in fundraising in a personal capacity outside the workplace provided he or she does not:

  • Personally solicit funds or other support from a subordinate or from any person the employee knows is a prohibited source.
  • Use or permit the use of his or her official title, position, or any authority associated with his or her public office to further the fundraising effort.
  • Engage in any action that would otherwise violate the ethics laws or regulations.

Employees and other persons are prohibited from selling or soliciting for personal gain within any building or on any lands occupied or used by DOI. Exception is granted for Department-authorized operations including, but not limited to, the Interior Department Recreation Association; the Indian Arts and Crafts store; and for cafeteria, newsstand, snack bar, and vending machine operations that are authorized by DOI for the benefit of employees or the public. (See 43 C.F.R. § 20.504.)

Example:  Your son's track team is selling running gear to help pay for their travel to the State Championship.  You would like to display and sell the gear at work.  You may not do so.  An employee may not use nor permit the use of his or her official Government title, position, or any authority associated with his or her office to further a fundraising effort other than those authorized by the agency, or in compliance with Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) regulations.  In addition, an employee may not use Government property or time in support of a private fundraising effort.  Employees and other persons are also prohibited from selling or soliciting for personal gain within any building or on any lands occupied or used by DOI.

Example:  You have long been active in fundraising efforts for "Race for the Cure."  This year, there will be a fundraising run that goes right past the Main Interior Building.  You want to form and enter a "Team DOI" to participate in the "Run."  You may not do so.  Use of the "Team DOI" name would improperly imply DOI endorsement of this private fundraising event.  Rob is also not permitted to use his official title, position or authority, nor any government time or property to further this private fundraising effort.


  • Before entering into such service, all DOI employees who wish to serve on the Board of Directors or as an officer of an outside organization, in any capacity, must consult with their servicing ethics office for support.
  • Prior ethics approval is required for such service in an employee's:
    • official capacity (as part of the employee's official duties)
    • personal capacity (as an outside activity) if the organization is a prohibited source (your servicing ethics office will help you determine whether the organization is a prohibited source).
  • For additional information and support, contact your servicing ethics office.



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