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Use of Official Government Title in Activities with Outside Organizations

When an employee is engaged in any official duty activity with an outside organization, the employee may use his/her official Government title in connection with the activities.  In an official duty, the employee represents the Government and therefore reference to current official position or title is permitted.  This applies to speaking, teaching, writing, and any other activities carried out on behalf of the Government.  See also the information on Official Duty Activities.

Example:  Dr. Pat Jones, an intramural scientist in NHLBI, is giving a speech about current official work at a scientific conference.  Dr. Jones may be listed in the program as:  Dr. Pat Jones, NHLBI, NIH.

Using Your Official Title in Conjunction with Outside Activities (Personal Activities)

The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch provide guidance on use of official title and position for different outside activities.  The requirements are slightly different, as explained below.

Teaching, Speaking, Writing Activities: The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch permit a Government employee to use his/her official Government title in connection with the outside activity in limited situations (see 5 CFR 2635.807(b)):

  • An employee may include or permit the inclusion of his/her title or position as one of several biographical details when such information is given to identify him/her in connection with the teaching, speaking, or writing activity, provided that his/her title or position is given no more prominence than other significant biographical details.

    Example:  Dr. Pat Jones, from above, is teaching a research course at a local university, and is introduced as follows:  Dr. Pat Jones graduated cum laude from the University of Maryland with a degree in biochemistry, and completed Medical School at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.  Following three years in the military, he began his career as a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, currently working in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Division of Intramural Research.  He has taught several courses in basic research methods, chemistry, and biochemistry.

  • An employee may use, or permit the use of, his/her title in connection with an article published in a scientific or professional journal, provided that the title or position is accompanied by a reasonably prominent disclaimer stating that the views expressed in the article are the employee's and do not represent the Government.

    Example of Disclaimer:  Dr. Pat Jones works with another faculty member as part of his teaching at the local university (see above example).  He and the other faculty member jointly prepare an article for publication in a scientific journal.  He may use his official Government title as in the example for an Official Duty Activity but it must be accompanied by the following disclaimer, prominently placed so readers see it:  Dr. Jones contributed to this article in his personal capacity.  The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institutes of Health or the United States Government.

  • An employee who is ordinarily addressed using a general term of address, such as "The Honorable," or a rank, such as "Admiral" may use or permit the use of that term of address or rank in connection with the outside teaching, speaking, or writing.

    Example:  Dr. Pat Jones is a US Public Health Service Commissioned Officer, at the rank of Rear Admiral.  Colleagues normally address him as "Admiral Jones."  When Dr. Jones is engaged in an outside activity, individuals interacting with him as part of that outside activity may also call him Admiral.

Other Outside Activities (e.g., service on an advisory board or awards committee): The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch also permit a Government employee to use his/her official Government title in connection with other types of outside activities (see 5 CFR 2635.702(b)).  This part of the regulation does not imposed the stringent biographical detail requirement which are imposed above.  This rule focuses on whether an employee's title or position is used in a manner that could reasonably be construed to imply that the employee's agency or the Government sanctions or endorses the employee's activities.  Therefore, employees may use their official government title in connection with an outside activity (other than teaching, speaking, or writing), only as follows:

An employee may permit his/her name and official title in connection with an outside activity (other than teaching, speaking, or writing) as long as there is a prominent disclaimer indicating that the employee is serving in a personal capacity, e.g., the name and official title may be listed on the letterhead or other program provided that the listing contains an asterisk with an explanatory side or footnote stating that the individual serves in his/her personal capacity.

Example:  As a member of an award committee for a professional association in a personal capacity, Dr. Jones helps the association review award nominations and determine the winner.  His name and title are listed on the award nomination form as follows:  Dr. Pat Jones, National Institutes of Health*and at the bottom of the list is the following:  *Dr. Jones is serving in his personal capacity.

Example:  Dr. Jose Diaz, an extramural Health Scientist Administrator in NIAMS, serves on an editorial board for a professional journal to review articles, suggest revisions, and recommend suitability for publication in the journal.  On the page of Editorial Board Members, the following listing is permitted:  Dr. Jose Diaz, National Institutes of Health*, and the following note at the bottom of that page:  *Dr. Diaz is serving in his personal capacity.

Example:  Dr. Hsu Chang, a Scientific Review Administrator in CSR, is serving on the Board of Directors for a professional association.  Dr. Chang can be listed on the letterhead with an asterisk, as follows:  Dr. Hsu Chang, National Institutes of Health* with the following note at the bottom of the page:  *Dr. Chang is serving in a personal capacity.

Using Your Official Title in Conjunction with Other Types of Activities

Recommendation/Endorsement Letters:  Employees shall not use or permit the use of his/her official title or affiliation in any manner that could reasonably construed to imply that his/her agency or the Government sanctions or endorses his/her personal activities or those of another person or organization.  For specific information on use of title and position for letters of recommendations, see Use of Title and Position for Letters of Recommendation, and Letters in Support of Visa Actions.

Example:  A contracting officer may not write a letter of support for a contractor to use as part of their public relations or advertising information.  The contracting officer may complete the necessary information in the Contractor Performance System, a Government system designed to track contractor performance.

Fund-Raising:  An employee may engage in fund-raising in the Federal workplace only in accordance with 5 CFR Section 950, which designates the annual Combined Federal Campaign and the promotion of Savings Bond as the only permissible fund-raisers in the Federal workplace.  As part of such official fund-raising activities, an employee may use his/her official title, position, and authority.  Personal fund-raising activities, such as for religious organizations, schools, clubs, and other organizations are not permitted during official work time, nor can an employee use his/her official title, position, or authority to encourage participation or seek contributions. An employee may inform other employees that his/her child/grandchild's school or organization is selling certain items to raise funds, but cannot sell those items during regular work time.  Even though these fund-raisers may be for very good causes, Federal rules prohibit use of Government resources to conduct such fund-raisers.

Example:  An employee may engage in personal fund-raising on personal time, but may not use Government resources (phone, fax, time, copier, computer, etc.) in support of that activity.

Example:  An employee whose grandchild's school is selling chocolate can discreetly let others know that the candy is available, and, during lunch break or after hours, may sell candy, as long as the purchaser is not a subordinate or other prohibited source.  Even if the selling employee is on lunch time or personal break, s/he may not go around to other employees during their official time to inform them of the availability of the candy or fund-raiser, or attempt to sell the product.  Both seller and buyer must be on personal time.

For additional information, contact your IC's Deputy Ethics Counselor(pdf-icon.jpg,1 page) or Ethics Coordinator(pdf-icon.jpg,4 pages).