Ethics Answers | April 2019

Ethics Answers

Question: During the government shutdown due to the lapse in appropriations, I considered finding a temporary job. Would the ethics rules have permitted me to do so?  

All Department employees are subject to the ethics laws during a furlough, including rules regarding outside activities and employment. In general, Department employees may engage in outside employment in the United States, whether during a furlough or not, as long as they abide by some key ethics restrictions. Employees may not take a job that would pose a conflict with their official duties, may not represent or communicate on behalf of another entity to the U.S. government and may not use their official title or position in their outside work. For example, a furloughed employee could drive a ride-share or wait tables, or even engage in consulting or other services that do not overlap with their State Department job or require interaction with the federal government, but a furloughed employee could not represent a client (even for free) in a social security disability proceeding. Most employees are not required to seek approval for outside employment but, where practical, are encouraged to discuss outside activities with their supervisors; this could be necessary to gauge whether the outside employment could post a conflict with an employee’s federal job duties. Financial disclosure filers should remember to report outside employment on their annual reports. Additional rules and restrictions apply to employees posted abroad, to public financial disclosure filers, to senior non-career officials and to employees wishing to engage in some kinds of teaching, speaking or writing. 11 FAM 600 sets forth many of the ethics rules that apply to Department employees. Because every situation is unique, ethics attorneys are always ready to answer your questions.

Ethics Answers presents hypothetical ethical scenarios Department employees might face. For help with real ethics questions, email

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