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Are You Violating Ethics Rules With Your Job Search?



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All questions must be answered before you can continue.

True or false: You have a very general discussion with an employer about whether you’d be a good fit for a job opening. You don’t need to worry about federal disclosure or recusal requirements yet since your discussion was so broad.

False. Even a general discussion about a specific vacancy opens you to potential disclosure and recusal requirements.

All questions must be answered before you can continue.

You have been contacted by a job search firm and have begun discussing potential next steps, but you have not talked about applications to specific employers. Must you begin recusing yourself from work that could generally affect the financial interests of employers in your field?

No. As long as the intermediary has not identified a prospective employer to you and your discussions have been general, you are fine.

All questions must be answered before you can continue.

True or false: You are so eager to leave your job that you have sent resumes to 50 outside firms. You don’t have to worry about notifying your bosses or recusing yourself from any work because you’ve sent resumes so many places you’re not really considered to be “seeking employment” with any single firm.

False: Sending out a bunch of resumes is still considered “seeking employment.”

All questions must be answered before you can continue.

You are in contact with a prospective employer that has a financial stake in a regulation you are crafting. Is it OK to tell this employer you are interested in a job opening, but only after the rule is finalized?

No. If you’ve said you are interested in the job opening at any time, then the negotiations are considered open and you must recuse yourself from this rule-making.

All questions must be answered before you can continue.

You work at the Food and Drug Administration and have been in touch with a pharmaceutical company about a job opening. Can you work on a regulation on research criteria for approving prescription drugs?

No. The regulation has “general applicability” and would have a “direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of the pharmaceutical company.”

All questions must be answered before you can continue.

You, an FDA employee, applied for a job at a pharmaceutical company two months ago but never heard back. Can you work on a regulation that would affect the financial interests of that firm?

Yes. Given the time gap, you’re no longer classified as “seeking employment”

All questions must be answered before you can continue.

You work at the Education Department and are pursuing a job at the University of Maryland, which has previously applied for grants in your work area but has no pending applications. Are you required to notify anyone that you are applying for this job?

No. However, if the university applies for a new grant during your job search, you must remove yourself from the decision-making process.

All questions must be answered before you can continue.

You are traveling for an interview at a firm seeking to do business with your agency. Are you allowed to let the company reimburse you for your travel costs and other amenities during your interview trip?

Yes. You can accept reimbursement so long as you have complied with other recusal and disclosure requirements. One possible caveat: double check if the prospective employer is a foreign government or international organization, because then you also need to comply with the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act.

All questions must be answered before you can continue.

True or false: You are a military officer and have accepted a job with a defense contractor that does not start for another six months. During that six months, it is not necessary to recuse yourself from administration of your new employer’s contracts because you have not actually started work with the new company yet.

False. You would need a written waiver or regulatory exemption to participate in contract oversight.

All questions must be answered before you can continue.

Violating the ethics rules for a job search is punishable by:

You can be fined and/or serve up to five years in prison for failing to properly recuse yourself from government business involving your potential new employer.

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