Issue Briefs

At this time of year, issues commonly arise around giving or getting gifts in the work environment.

Some Gifting Inside Workplace Allowed

Rules are found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 5 C.F.R. section 2635; many agencies also have their own policies. In general, an 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. But on occasions “where gifts are traditionally given” such as the holidays, employee 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.

Gifts from Outside Sources Restricted

Generally speaking, an employee may not solicit or accept a gift given because of his official position or from a prohibited source to include anyone who: has or seeks official action or business with the agency; is regulated by the agency; has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance of an employee’s official duties; or is an organization composed mainly of such persons. A “gift” under these policies generally does not include items such as publicly available discounts and prizes, commercial loans, food not part of a meal such as coffee and donuts, and items of little value such as plaques and greeting cards.

What’s Acceptable in Gift-Getting

Unless the frequency of the acceptance of gifts would appear to be improper, an employee generally may accept: gifts based on a personal relationship when it is clear that the motivation is not his official position; gifts of $20 or less per occasion, not to exceed $50 in a year from one source; discounts and similar benefits offered to a broad class, including a broad class of government employees; most genuine awards and honorary degrees, although in some cases an employee will need a formal determination; free attendance, food, refreshments and materials provided at a conference or widely attended gathering or certain other social events which an employee attends in his official capacity, with approval; and gifts based on an outside business relationship, such as travel expenses related to a job interview. An employee should return gifts not meeting the exceptions or contact his or her supervisor on how to dispose of them. Perishable items may be given to charity or shared by the office, with approval.