Although it’s likely there will be few holiday parties among federal workers this year, whether in the office or in someone’s home, it’s still important to know the ethical rules around giving and receiving gifts.
A federal employee may not give, or solicit a contribution for, a gift to an official superior, and may not accept a gift from an employee receiving less pay if the employee is a subordinate.
On occasions “where gifts are traditionally given” such as the holidays, employees may give the following to an official superior: items, other than cash, valued at $10 or less; items such as food and refreshments to be shared in the office; and personal hospitality provided at a residence which is of a type and value customarily provided by the employee to personal friends.
Regarding gifts from outside, unless the frequency of the acceptance of gifts would appear to be improper, a federal employee generally may accept: gifts of $20 or less per occasion, not to exceed $50 in a year from one source, and gifts above those thresholds based on a personal relationship, not the position.
An employee should return gifts not meeting the exceptions or seek guidance on how to dispose of them. Perishable items may be given to charity or shared by the office, with approval.