There are limits on how you can make money outside of your salary as a federal employee, but many feds do find ways to supplement their income. If you know the rules and are up front with your supervisor and agency you should be in the clear. However, it’s important to understand the restrictions that come with working for the federal government.

Can you work more than one federal job?

Generally, federal employees are prohibited from receiving pay from more than one federal government source. The laws on dual employment apply to agencies in the executive, legislative and judicial branches, corporations owned or controlled by the government, and nonappropriated fund organizations under the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces. However, there are some exceptions, as described below.

Also, executive branch employees are subject to a number of limitations on the outside activities in which they may be involved. They also are subject to criminal statutes that prohibit the representation of private interests before the government. These restrictions apply even when employees are on unpaid leave, including furlough.

In limited situations, employees can hold more than one federal job. An individual may have more than one federal appointment, but may receive pay from more than one civilian job when the jobs total no more than 40 hours of work a week, Sunday to Saturday (excluding overtime) or there is an “authorized exception.” This means an employee on leave without pay from one position may be paid for another position. Paid leave, however, counts toward the 40-hour-per week limitation unless there is an authorized exception.

Authorized exceptions to the limitation on pay for more than 40 hours a week include:

  • exceptions in law, such as with agency approval federal employees can work for the U.S. Postal Service;
  • emergency services relating to health, safety, protection of life or property, or national emergency;
  • expert and consultant jobs when working different hours as an intermittent employee; and
  • fees paid on other than a time basis (lump-sum pay for a report, research product or service not based on the number of hours or days worked).

Other exceptions sometimes are ordered, such as allowing employees to take a second job in connection with a census. Also, in unusual circumstances, federal agencies can make exceptions to obtain required personal services when they cannot be readily obtained otherwise.

See also, Dual Employment in Federal Government

Can you work a second, non-federal job?

In general, federal employees may not engage in outside employment or activities that conflict with official duties and responsibilities. Many federal agencies have written policies that allow outside employment, especially when it is not related to the federal work and will not result in, or create the appearance of, a conflict of interest.

Agency policies may require employees to receive prior approval for outside employment even when co-workers have similar outside jobs. Ask your supervisor, agency ethics official, and agency personnel office for further information. (See also, Federal Government Ethics Policies)

In general, an employee may not have outside employment or be involved in an outside activity that conflicts with the official duties of the employee’s position.

An activity conflicts with official duties:

  • if it is prohibited by statute or by the regulations of the employee’s agency; or
  • if the activity would require the employee to be disqualified from matters so central to the performance of the employee’s official duties as to materially impair the employee’s ability to carry out those duties.

Employees generally may not be paid for outside teaching, speaking and writing if the activity relates to the employee’s official duties.

However, there is an exception that would allow an employee to be paid for teaching certain courses at accredited educational institutions. Employees may not use their official title or position (except as part of a biography or for identification as the author of an article with an appropriate disclaimer) to promote a book, seminar, course, program or similar undertaking.

Executive branch employees generally may accept honoraria for an appearance, speech or article, provided that the activity does not relate to the employee’s official duties. Employees are subject to other restrictions on the receipt of honoraria in certain circumstances, including the prohibition on receiving compensation for teaching, speaking and writing that relates to their official duties (subject to the exception noted above for teaching certain courses).

The application of the ethics rules to book deals can be complex and can vary according to the subject of the book, the timing and type of compensation and the type of federal position.

Note: Certain restrictions apply to speaking, writing and teaching by federal employees even if those activities are unpaid. For example, when employees have published works in their own capacities in scientific journals or publications, they must provide a disclaimer stating that the information does not necessarily represent the view of their agency or of the government in general. Employees may want to make such disclaimers even in other types of writing as a matter of prudence.

Executive branch employees may not be paid by someone other than the United States for doing their government job.

This prohibition does not apply to:

  • certain special government employees and employees serving without compensation;
  • funds contributed out of the treasury of any state, county, or municipality;
  • continued participation in a bona fide pension, retirement, group life, health or accident insurance, profit-sharing, stock bonus, or other employee welfare or benefit plan maintained by a former employer;
  • payments for travel, subsistence and other expenses made to an employee by a tax-exempt nonprofit organization incurred in connection with training; and
  • moving expenses incurred in connection with participation in an executive exchange or fellowship program in an executive agency.

Representing a private party to the government as a federal employee

Employees are prohibited from prosecuting a claim against the United States or representing a private party before the government in connection with a particular matter in which the United States is a party or has a direct and substantial interest.

This prohibition applies whether or not the employee receives compensation for the representation.

There are exceptions that allow an employee to represent with or without compensation:

  • the employee (self-representation);
  • a parent, spouse or child of the employee; and
  • a person or estate that the employee serves as a guardian, executor, administrator, trustee or personal fiduciary (so long as the employing agency approves and the employee had not been involved personally in the matter in the course of official duties).

The matter involved may not be one in which the employee participated personally and substantially or which was the subject of the employee’s official responsibility. Also the employee must obtain approval for the activity from the employee’s appointing official.

Certain other representational activities are allowed only on an uncompensated basis.

Income diversification as a federal employee

All federal workers must adhere to basic federal government ethics policies in the pursuit of outside income, but that leaves open a wide range of possibilities – too many to enumerate here (rental properties, equities, even businesses so long as they don’t contract with the federal government).

Underlying ethical principles for federal employees are two core concepts:

  • employees shall not use public office for private gain; and
  • employees shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private organization or individual.

In addition, employees must strive to avoid any action that would create the appearance that they are violating the law or ethical standards.

Continue reading: Federal Government Ethics Policies

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