ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Receiving gifts in conjunction with, or because of, one's federal service is often incompatible.

It is not because federal employees are not likeable or deserving of a gift -- most federal employees are likeable, even lawyers.

Rather, they tend to be incompatible because our job performance should not be subject to gift influence.

Public trust is critical to our mission. Gift-giving ethical standards and requirements help preserve that trust.

A gift essentially includes receiving anything having monetary value.

Thus, receipt of an item, entertainment, debt cancellation, discount, travel and meals all fit the gift definition in 5 C.F.R. �2635.203.

The general rule is that federal employees may not accept gifts offered because of their official positions.

A gift is given because of an employee's position if it is from a person who would not give it absent the employee's status, authority or duties associated with the employee's federal position.

Whether a gift is prohibited starts with the question of whether there is a "gift exclusion."

Some of the most common excluded items include modest food and non-alcohol refreshments (i.e., the donut rule); greeting cards and items of little intrinsic value, such as plaques or trophies; loans on terms generally available to the public; and discount opportunities available to a large class, such as all government employees.

Any questions on gift exclusions can be addressed to an ethics counselor.

For items that are not excluded, the gift rules are basically subdivided into two categories:

1. From prohibited sources (contractors or potential contractors)

2. Between employees (supervisors and subordinates).

Exceptions exist within the rules.

Gifts from prohibited sources may not be accepted unless an exception applies. Some exceptions include the 20/50 rule (a gift valued at $20 or less from a prohibited source with no more than $50 from that source in a year), personal and outside relationship gifts and free attendance at widely attended gatherings (requires legal review and approval).

Generally, there are no ethical legal restrictions on gifts between non-supervisory employees or coworkers, but do not engage in poor-taste gift giving at work.

A supervisor may not normally receive a gift from a subordinate.

Some exceptions apply:

1. Supervisors can accept a gift from a subordinate valued at up to $10 during holidays.

2. For special occasions (marriage, child birth, retirement) a supervisor may receive a group gift valued at up to $300 with solicitation (be careful with solicitation and do not solicit contractors) of no more than $10 voluntary donation per employee.

3. Items given in connection with personal hospitality if of a type and value customarily given on such occasions (i.e., food platter).

If you need any clarification as to gifts, please call the Legal Office at 256-235-6518 and ask to speak to an ethics counselor.