ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Listening to holiday music, putting up decorations, going to parties, and eating festive foods -- these are all signs that the holiday season is well underway.

Exchanging gifts with your coworkers may also be a part of your celebration.

To avoid putting a damper on holiday celebrations, federal employees are reminded they must give responsibly to one another in the workplace.

Although certain small items such as coffee, donuts and greeting cards are not considered gifts, under ethics rules, most any other item of market value is a gift.

The two categories for gifts under the Joint Ethics Regulation are:
1. Gifts between supervisors and subordinates
2. Gifts from outside (prohibited) sources

Supervisors and subordinates may exchange gifts within the workplace.

Supervisors may accept food and refreshments shared in the office and may contribute to the expenses of an office party.

Although the general rule is that supervisors may not accept gifts from subordinates, there are exceptions:

• During the holidays or other celebrations such as a birthday, supervisors may accept gifts (other than cash) of $10 value or less per occasion from a subordinate.

• For special occasions, such as marriage, birth or adoption of a child or retirement, employees may give a supervisor a group gift if the total value of the gift does not exceed $300. Employees may not solicit more than $10 per employee to contribute to the group gift and the contributions must be voluntary.

• If a subordinate is invited to a social event at the supervisor's residence, the subordinate may give the supervisor a hospitality gift of the type and value customarily given on such an occasion.

There are no legal restrictions on gifts exchanged among coworkers. However, common sense (and good taste) should always apply within the workplace.

Employees may decline to accept a gift from a co-worker.

Also, employees should not give or accept cash as a gift.

Supervisors may never receive cash as a gift from a subordinate.

Gifts from contractors and other prohibited sources (any person seeking business with or official action by an employee's agency) during the holiday season are the same as any other time of the year:

• Item with a value not exceeding $20 may be given, as long as the total amount of gifts from that source does not exceed $50 for the year.

• Gifts may be given based on a bona fide personal relationship. For example, an employee may accept a gift from his or her spouse who works for a contractor as long the spouse, not the contractor, pays for the gift.

• Refreshments (not a meal) at an open house or reception, if it is a widely-attended gathering and the employee's supervisor approves attendance as being the Army's interest, are permitted.

• Invitations from contractors that are open to the public, to all government employees or to all military personnel are permitted.

• Invitations offered to a group or class not related to government employment are permitted. For example, an employee who is a volunteer at a hospital may attend an event for hospital volunteers offered by a company that is also a government contractor.

• Attendance at an event if attendance is based on outside business or other relationships is acceptable. For example, a federal employee may accompany their spouse to a contractor's holiday party for its employees where the spouse is employed by the contractor.

If you have any questions about the ethics rules, contact an Ethics Counselor at Anniston Army Depot Legal Office by calling 256-235-6773.