DOT employees must adhere to specific standards of ethical conduct. DOT employees must also comply with Federal ethics laws and other laws that address employee conduct. To assist DOT employees in meeting their ethical obligations, DOT conducts an ethics program that provides ongoing ethics training, advice, and counseling. The Standards of Ethical Conduct provide an essential guide for employees to follow as they perform their duties and responsibilities.
Former DOT employees must adhere to post employment restrictions in the Federal ethics laws. Former DOT employees with questions about their post employment obligations are encouraged to contact us.
Standards of Ethical Conduct
DOT employees are required to adhere to the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch. These standards are set out in Executive Order 12731 of October 17, 1990. All executive branch employees hold their Government positions as a public trust and the American people have a right to expect that all employees will place loyalty to the Constitution, laws, and ethical principles above private gain. Employees fulfill that trust by adhering to the Standards of Ethical Conduct.
The Standards of Ethical Conduct:
- Prohibit employees from holding financial interests that conflict with the performance of duty.
- Prohibit an employee from accepting gifts from sources seeking official action from, doing business with, or conducting activities regulated by the agency, or from sources with interests substantially affected by the employee’s performance of duty.
- Prohibit employees from engaging in financial transactions using nonpublic Government information, making unauthorized commitments, using public office for private gain, and engaging in nonofficial activities that conflict with the performance of duty.
- Require employees to act impartially, protect and preserve Federal property, report waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities, satisfy in good faith their obligations as citizens, and adhere to all laws and regulations that provide equal opportunity to all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or handicap.
- Require employees to strive continually to avoid any action that would create the appearance that they are violating the Standards of Ethical Conduct.
The Standards of Ethical Conduct are further explained in regulations of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE). These regulations are published in 5 CFR Part 2635. These regulations address gifts from sources outside the Government, gifts between employees, conflicting financial interests, impartiality in the performance of duty, seeking other employment, misuse of position, and nonofficial activities.
Supplemental Standards Of Ethical Conduct
In addition to the Standards of Ethical Conduct, DOT has adopted Supplemental Standards of Ethical Conduct that apply to certain employees. DOT’s Supplemental Standards are published in 5 CFR Part 6001. These Supplemental Standards address specific financial interests of employees at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
The Supplemental Standards of Ethical Conduct:
- Prohibit FAA employees from holding stock or other securities in an airline, aircraft manufacturing company, or a supplier of components or parts to an airline or aircraft manufacturing company.
- Prohibit FRA employees and their spouses and minor children from holding stock or any other financial interest in a railroad company subject to FRA regulation.
- Prohibit FRA employees from holding reemployment rights with a railroad company subject to FRA regulation after their first year of employment.
Federal Ethics Laws
DOT employees must comply with Federal ethics laws and other laws that address employee conduct. These laws include:
Conflict of interest laws. DOT employees must comply with conflict of interest laws in Sections 201-219 of Title 18, United States Code. These laws include criminal prohibitions relating to:
- Bribery (18 U.S.C. §201).
- Compensation in matters affecting the Government (18 U.S.C. §203).
- Claims and other matters affecting the Government (18 U.S.C. §205).
- Post employment restrictions (18 U.S.C. §207).
- Acts affecting personal financial interests (18 U.S.C. §208).
- Supplementation of salary (18 U.S.C. §209).
Procurement Integrity Law. DOT employees must comply with procurement integrity requirements in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) Act (41 U.S.C. §423). The OFPP Act contains restrictions relating to disclosing (and obtaining) contractor bid or proposal information or source selection information in Government procurements for goods or services, and a prohibition against accepting compensation from a contractor after leaving Government service.
Hatch Act. DOT employees are required to comply with the Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993. The Hatch Act contains limitations and prohibitions concerning participation in partisan political activities. These limitations and prohibitions are further explained in guidance provided by the Office of Special Counsel and in implementing regulations set out in 5 CFR Parts 733 and 734. Generally, the Hatch Act prohibits employees from participating in partisan political activities while on duty or in a Federal building.
Other Laws. Other laws relating to employee conduct include:
- Gifts to Government employees (5 U.S.C. §7353).
- Gifts to superiors (5 U.S.C. §7351).
- Gifts from foreign governments (5 U.S.C. §7342).
- Acceptance of travel expenses from non-Federal sources (31 U.S.C. §1353).
- Acceptance of awards and other payments (5 U.S.C. §4111).
- Nepotism (5 U.S.C. §3110).
- Lobbying with appropriated moneys (18 U.S.C. §1913).
A compilation of Federal ethics laws is available on the OGE website.
Ethics Commitments By Executive Branch Personnel
On January 21, 2009, the President signed Executive Order 13490 titled “Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel.” The Executive Order contains a requirement that every full time political appointee appointed on or after January 20, 2009, sign an Ethics Pledge. The specific terms of the Ethics Pledge are set out in Section 1 of the Executive Order.
The Ethics Pledge contains a specific commitment to adhere to a ban against accepting gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations during the period of service as an appointee.
The Ethics Pledge also contains (1) a two year ban on participating as an appointee in certain matters relating to a former employer or clients, (2) a two year ban on participating as an appointee (a) in certain matters or issue areas relating to work as a former lobbyist or (b) in an agency that the appointee lobbied within two years before the date of his or her appointment, (3) for certain former appointees, a two year post employment ban on communicating with or appearing before the former appointee’s agency, and (4) for certain former appointees, a continuing post employment ban on lobbying certain Government officials after leaving Government service.
In addition, the Ethics Pledge contains a commitment to base hiring and other employment decisions on a candidate’s qualifications, competence, and experience, and a binding mechanism for enforcing the Ethics Pledge.
Pursuant to Section 4 of the Executive Order, DOT procedures relating to administration of the Executive Order will be developed in consultation with the Office of Government Ethics.
DOT senior officials and other employees who serve in non-career positions are required to file public financial disclosure reports. These reports contain information regarding personal financial interests, sources of income, gifts received, liabilities, agreements or arrangements concerning future employment, and non-Government positions held. Other DOT employees who serve in certain career positions are required to file confidential financial disclosure reports. The purpose of financial disclosure reports is to provide assurance that reporting individuals are in compliance with applicable ethics laws and regulations.
Financial disclosure reports are required upon entry into Government service or upon occupying a position that requires filing a financial disclosure report. Thereafter, financial disclosure reports must be filed on an annual basis. Public financial disclosure reports must be filed annually by May 15. Confidential financial disclosure reports must be filed annually by February 15. DOT senior officials and other employees who serve in non-career positions must also file a financial disclosure report upon completion of Government service.
DOT Ethics Program
The DOT Ethics Program has four basic components: ethics training, advice and counseling (including post employment advice to former employees), financial disclosure reporting, and administration, including enforcement.
Responsibilities of Key Officials. The Secretary of Transportation is responsible for and exercises personal leadership in establishing and carrying out the DOT Ethics Program. The Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO) for DOT coordinates and manages the DOT Ethics Program. Also, DOT has an Alternate Agency Ethics Official (AAEO) who acts in the absence of the DAEO. In addition, the Office of the Secretary and each DOT Operating Administration has a Deputy Ethics Official (DEO) who works under the supervision of the DAEO to coordinate and manage the DOT Ethics Program.
Ethics Training. Initial ethics orientations are conducted upon entry into Government service. Thereafter, ethics training sessions are conducted annually. Initial ethics orientations concentrate on the principles in the Standards of Ethical Conduct. Annual ethics training includes a review of the Standards of Ethical Conduct as well as a discussion of specific ethics and related matters of current interest.
Advice and Counseling. Employee advice and counseling sessions are generally done on an individual basis. Sessions are done as needed and upon request. Questions that employees most commonly ask relate to potential conflicts of interest, negotiating for employment after Government service, and acceptance of gifts, e.g., invitations to attend receptions and other events hosted by transportation-related interests.
Post Employment. Advice on post employment matters is available to former employees upon request. Former employees often have questions about whether they can represent new employers before DOT or other Government agencies. The post employment law in 18 U.S.C. §207 contains various restrictions on former employee representation of interests before Government agencies. These restrictions are explained in DOT’s memorandum titled “Guidance on Post Employment Matters and Negotiating for Future Employment.” Guidance is also contained in OGE regulations published in 5 CFR Part 2641.
Financial Disclosure. Public financial disclosure reports are filed annually by May 15. Confidential financial disclosure reports are filed annually by February 15. Financial disclosure reports are also filed upon entry into a position requiring a financial disclosure report and public reports must also be filed upon completion of Government service in that position. DOT officials who file public financial disclosure reports include Political Appointees with Senate Confirmation, other non-career employees, career members of the Senior Executive Service, Administrative Law Judges, and FAA Senior Executives. DOT employees who file confidential financial disclosure reports include career employees who participate in, e.g., contracting and procurements, administering grants or licenses, regulating or auditing non-Federal entities, other activities having economic effect on the interests of non-Federal entities, and activities involving auditing or investigating violations of criminal or civil law.
Enforcement. Ethics violations include: (1) violations of the Standards of Ethical Conduct, (2) violations of the Supplemental Standards of Ethical Conduct, (3) failure to file a financial disclosure report, (4) actual conflicts of interest or the appearance thereof disclosed on a financial disclosure report, and (5) violations of other laws governing employee conduct.
Generally, administrative enforcement of ethics infractions is handled by the DOT organization that employs the individual to which the enforcement action relates. Criminal infractions are referred to DOT’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG maintains a Hotline for reporting allegations of waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption, including allegations relating to conflicts of interest and other ethics infractions. The Hotline is available 24 hours per day to Federal employees, contractors, and the general public.
Prosecuting alleged criminal violations is the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Justice, Public Integrity Section, or the appropriate U.S. Attorney’s Office.