Understanding the Revolving Door - OGE Pamphlet

Understanding the Revolving Door: How Ethics Rules Apply to Your Job Seeking and Post-Government Employment Activities

Pamphlet prepared by: Office of Government Ethics, October 2007

If you are planning to leave the executive branch and return to private employment, you need to know how the Federal ethics laws may affect you, both while you are looking for a job and after you leave the Government. This pamphlet provides an overview of the relevant restrictions that apply in these situations. You should consult your agency ethics official for detailed guidance about how these complex rules and criminal prohibitions apply to you.

Looking for a Job

Several issues can arise when you seek employment outside the Government while you are still working in the executive branch.

Generally, you may not work in your Government job on a matter that would affect the financial interests of someone with whom you are discussing possible employment. To do so would be a conflict of interest subject to criminal penalties. You must disqualify yourself from working on such a matter during your job search. In addition, if you participate in certain procurement matters, you may be subject to additional rules, including the duty to report employment contacts made by you or a bidder or offeror.

Some additional ethics rules may affect your job search. Generally, you may not work on a Government matter that would affect the financial interests of someone with whom you are “seeking employment.” The rules define “seeking employment” broadly. In most cases, you will be considered to be seeking employment before you are engaged in actual job negotiations. For example, sending a resume or having preliminary contacts about possible employment, whether initiated by you or a prospective employer, may be considered seeking employment.

During your job search, you must be careful not to misuse Government resources such as your official time, the services of other employees, equipment, supplies, and non-public information to which you have access. You also will want to bear in mind the post-employment restrictions, discussed below, to which you will be subject once you leave your Government post.

After you accept a job outside the Government, you must continue to refrain from working on matters in your Government job that would affect the financial interests of your prospective employer.

Restrictions on Employment After Government Service

This section highlights the restrictions that will apply to you even after you leave executive branch service. You should seek advice from your agency’s ethics official on how these post-employment restrictions apply to you, both before and after you terminate Government employment.

Criminal Post-Employment Restrictions

Restrictions on post-Government employment do not bar you from working for any particular employer. The restrictions are designed to address certain activities that involve, or may appear to involve, the unfair use of your prior Government employment. How these restrictions apply to you depends upon your position and your duties during your Government service

Exceptions to Post-Employment Restrictions

There are exceptions to some of these restrictions. For example, one exception permits former employees to engage in post-employment activities performed in carrying out official duties on behalf of the United States. Another exception, in some cases, allows former senior and very senior employees to make representational contacts on behalf of a candidate for Federal or State office, or on behalf of national and campaign committees or a political party. You should contact your designated agency ethics official for assistance in determining whether any exceptions apply to your situation.

Additional Restrictions

Depending on your current Government duties and your future employment, other post-employment restrictions may apply to you. Here are some common situations in which other post-employment restrictions may apply:

Summary for Avoiding Trouble

Understanding the Federal ethics laws that govern your conduct while you are looking for a job and after you terminate Government service can be challenging. This pamphlet is only a starting point, but remembering these key issues and seeking the assistance of your agency ethics official will help you successfully pass through the revolving door.

Updated: 2/19/13