Federal Eye Eye Opener: Holiday gift giving at federal offices

Happy Friday! Most offices start winding down for the year on Friday ahead of the weekend’s anticipated snowstorm and the Christmas and New Year’s weeks. Amid all the parties, long lunches and other holiday cheer, some feds may wonder: When it comes to giving gifts at government offices, how much is too much?

“Twenty dollars or less,” said Bill Bransford, a partner at federal employment firm Shaw, Bransford and Roth and co-host of Federal News Radio’s “Fed Talk.”

“No more than fifty dollars a year to the same person pretty much keeps you in safe territory, but of course there are exceptions and there are times when you are actually allowed to give more,” Bransford said.

And because there are always (ALWAYS!) extra, tricky details with federal employment matters, Bransford provided a little more detail:

If you had that personal friendship before that boss became your boss and you had a history of maybe treating your boss to a round of golf or a lunch or going out to dinner or buying a round of drinks, keep in mind all of those are defined as gifts under the gift rules, then that can continue.

The clearest example is if somebody’s a relative, a member of your family and they’re also a federal employee and maybe even at the same agency you work at, you can certainly give that gift as a member of the family, but you’d better have a pretty good explanation for why this is different and not be making something up or creating a false situation. Remember there have been several people over the last few years who have received gifts who have gone to jail.

Bottom line: “The safest thing is to not give any presents,” Bransford said.

Incidentally, if The Eye could accept gifts from sources and contacts (he absolutely cannot and will not), he’d tell people that his favorite color is blue, he’s like shiny things and he’s a size medium and his favorite gift as a child was…

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