Office of Ethics
United States Department of Agriculture

GIFT EXCHANGE - INTERNAL

Background

During the year, especially during the fall and winter holiday season, employees enjoy exchanging gifts among themselves.

General Prohibition

The Standards of Ethical Conduct prohibit employees from giving or soliciting for gifts to supervisors or accepting gifts from lower-paid employees, unless the individuals are personal friends who are not in a superior-subordinate relationship.

Definitions

GIFT:
any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance, or other item having monetary value.

OFFICIAL SUPERIOR:
anyone whose official responsibilities involve directing or evaluating the performance of the employee's official duties. The term is not limited to immediate supervisors, but applies to officials up the supervisory chain.

SOLICIT:
to request contributions by personal communication or by general announcement.

VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTION:
a contribution (of an amount determined by the contributing employee) except in instances where the employee freely chooses to pay a proportionate share of the cost of a luncheon, reception, or similar event. Regardless, voluntary contributions are given freely and without coercion.

Exceptions

Giving and receiving gifts between employees is allowable as follows:

NUMBER

EXCEPTION

1

Items, other than cash, aggregating $10 or less per occasion.

2

Food and refreshments shared in the office.

3

Personal hospitality at a residence.

4

Appropriate hostess gifts.

5

Leave sharing under Office of Personnel Management Regulations.

6

Gifts given in recognition of infrequently occurring occasions of personal significance such as marriage, illness, or the birth or adoption of a child; or upon occasions that terminate a subordinate-official superior relationship such as retirement, resignation, or transfer. In these instances, an employee may solicit voluntary contributions of nominal amounts from fellow employees for an appropriate gift to an official superior, and an employee may make a voluntary contribution.