By Maj. Kyle Meisner, Chief of Administrative Law, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, Ft. Shafter, HawaiiJanuary 17, 2019
As you prepare for retirement, it is important to remember many federal ethical regulations continue to apply during the job search and often, post retirement as well.
Before you say "Ethics? That doesn't apply to me!" keep reading. While there are restrictions on receiving gifts from prospective employers and restrictions on who you can and cannot work for, if you get a written ethics opinion from the ethics counselor at your local Office of the Staff Judge Advocate (OSJA), this can protect you from federal prosecution if you inadvertently run afoul of the law. This protection is commonly known as "Safe Harbor."
Seeking Employment -- Once you have started seeking employment with a prospective employer, you may not take any official action that will affect the financial interests of that prospective employer. This occurs most frequently when seeking employment with a contractor and you may have to disqualify yourself from actions in the Army related to your prospective employer.
Gifts -- Depending on the type of post government employment you are seeking, prospective employers may offer you gifts. Gifts come in many forms and could be anything from airline tickets or lunch, to pens or t-shirts. In general, you may accept travel expenses (meals, lodging, transportation) from a prospective employer if they are customarily provided in connection with bona fide employment discussions. The same is generally true of other company promotional items offered as part of the interview process. However, if the performance of your official duties in
the Army could affect a prospective employer, you must first be disqualified from acting on those matters. Lastly, if these gifts exceed $375, and you file a financial disclosure report (OGE 450 or
OGE 278), you must include them on your report.
Transition Leave -- In general, you may work while on transition leave, but retiring officers may not hold elected office at any level. Additionally, while you are still in government service, including on transition or separation leave or associated TDY, you are prohibited from representing another
organization back to the federal government.
After Retirement -- Believe it or not, there are federal laws restricting your employment options even when you have retired completely. In particular, you may not work, without a waiver, for the Department of Defense if you are within 180 days of your official date of retirement. In general,
you may not represent someone else to the government regarding particular matters that you worked on while in government service. These rules are much more specific as they relate to
contracts and treaties. If this applies to you, consult your local OSJA.
As soon as you begin to look for post government employment, please consult your local OSJA. Many other ethical regulations may apply to your specific circumstances, and your ethics counselor will be able to advise you on these regulations and ensure you do not run afoul of federal law.