Office of Ethics
United States Department of Agriculture

Frequently Asked Questions

VI. Subpart F — Seeking Other Employment.


a.    Definitions (Section 2635.603).

Question Do you begin negotiating for employment only when you begin talking about salary and duties with your prospective employer?
 
Answer

No. The regulation broadly defines "negotiating" to include any discussion with a prospective employer or his/her agent about your possible future employment. Sending an employment application or a resume could qualify if sent to a targeted group or where the employee knows the recipient is likely to be interested.

 

b.    Disqualification while seeking employment (Section 2635.604).

Question Last night I attended a reception given by a national commodity association whose members have interests that I might affect in the performance of my duties. A high-level association representative asked me if I would be interested in being considered for a new position the association is establishing. I want at least to think about the position. What are my obligations?
 
Answer

Because you have not declined consideration for the position, you are engaged in negotiations for employment with the association. At least two scenarios might play out.

1. You have official duties that require you to participate in particular matters that, to your knowledge, have a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of the prospective employer (the association) and all of its members. You should immediately disqualify yourself from participating in those particular matters. Notify your supervisors of the fact that you are in negotiations with the association. Continue the disqualification until employment negotiations are resolved by your acceptance or rejection of the position, or by the association's withdrawal of the offer to consider you. NOTE: While disqualification need not be in writing (for most employees), it is a good practice.

2. Your official duties do not require you to participate in particular matters that, to your knowledge, have a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of the employer (the association); but it is still appropriate to formally disqualify yourself from participating in any particular matter having a direct and predictable effect on the association itself. On an irregular basis, your duties require you to participate in particular matters that affect individual member organizations of the association. In this situation, a disqualification from participating in any particular matter affecting an individual member of the association is overbroad. It is more appropriate to identify those member companies that are involved on behalf of the association in the candidate search, candidate evaluation, and/or hiring decision for the position for which you are negotiating. Disqualify yourself from participating in particular matters that, to your knowledge, have a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of those companies.