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Outside Employment and Activities

Outside Employment and Activities: General Rules

An employee is required to obtain written approval before engaging in any outside employment that involves a subject matter that relates to the responsibilities of his component. Outside employment includes any form of employment, business relationship or activity involving the provision of personal services, whether paid or unpaid. For example, an employee working in the Environment and Natural Resources Division would need written approval to serve on the board of directors of an environmental organization; a JMD employee must receive approval to work for a DOJ contractor.

Also, an employee must obtain written approval to engage in the private practice of law, whether compensated or uncompensated.

5 C.F.R. § 3801.106

Here is a sample request to engage in outside employment.

No employee may engage in the practice of law unless it is uncompensated and in the nature of community service, or unless it is on behalf of himself, his parents, spouse or children. The Department interprets “uncompensated and in the nature of community service” to include matters traditionally falling within pro bono publico representation on behalf of indigent clients, as well as activities such as preparing a will for a neighbor, representing a cousin in a divorce proceeding or writing a letter for a friend with a grievance against a private employer would be excepted from the ban. However, an employee must obtain written approval from his Component Head before engaging in any outside practice of law, which will take into consideration a range of factors.

While uncompensated activities may be permissible, an employee is prohibited from engaging in any practice of law which involves a criminal matter, be it Federal, state or local, or any matter in which the Department is or represents a party. The paid practice of law is also prohibited. These prohibitions may be waived by the Deputy Attorney General if the restrictions will cause undue personal or family hardship, unduly prohibit an employee from completing a professional obligation entered into prior to Government service, or unduly restrict the Department from securing necessary and uniquely specialized services. All requests for a waiver of these prohibitions should be made through the Departmental Ethics Office.

5 C.F.R. § 3801.106

The Department's Pro Bono Policy encourages employees to provide pro bono legal and volunteer services within their communities. An employee seeking to engage in pro bono work must comply with the Department's supplemental regulations on outside activities and employment and receive the appropriate approvals. Certain pro bono programs, such as legal clinics for the poor, may be given general approval by the Component Head. If an employee takes a case through such a program, he will also need approval for each case he handles which may be given by a supervisory official below the Component Head. Here are sample individual requests to engage in pro bono work.

An employee who wants to engage in pro bono work or volunteer services should consult his component's Pro Bono Coordinator. Each coordinator should have a list of organizations in the area that are looking for volunteers. In addition, the coordinator will have a list of activities that have been given general approval for employees in the component.

Generally, an employee may not be compensated for speaking or writing that relates to his official duties. A subject matter relates to an employee's official duties if it deals in significant part with a matter to which the employee is presently assigned or has been assigned in the last year; any ongoing or announced policy, program or operation of the Department; or in the case of a non-career employee, the general subject matter area primarily affected by the programs and operations of the Department. 5 C.F.R. § 2635.807 (Subpart H - Outside Activities). Under 5 C.F.R. § 3801.103 most components in the Department are designated as separate. This means that an employee would only be prohibited from accepting compensation for speaking or writing on a subject matter related to the policies, programs or operations of his component, not the entire Department.

There is an exception for teaching certain courses, even if the course relates to an employee's official duties, provided the course requires multiple presentations and: is offered as part of a regularly established curriculum of an institution of higher education; an elementary or secondary school; or a program sponsored and funded by the Federal Government or by a state or local government which is not offered by an entity described above. An employee may accept compensation for teaching a course provided it meets these requirements. An employee in a non-career position above GS-15 must have advance authorization before engaging in teaching for compensation. 5 C.F.R. § 2636.307 (Subpart C - Outside Earned Income Limitations).

When engaging in teaching, speaking or writing in a private capacity, an employee may not use nonpublic information, nor should there be any use of his official title except as part of other biographical information or for an article in a scientific or professional journal where there is a disclaimer. An employee may not use official time or that of another employee to prepare materials. Some components require advance review and clearance for certain written work and speeches.

An employee may not receive compensation for the representation of anyone before an agency or court of the Federal Government on a matter in which the United States is a party or has a substantial interest. This prohibition applies whether the employee renders the representation himself or shares in compensation from someone else's representation.

18 U.S.C. § 203

An employee also may not represent anyone before an agency or court of the Federal Government, with or without compensation, on a matter in which the United States is a party or has a substantial interest. This provision does not prohibit employees from joining or serving in a leadership position in an outside organization, though employees should ensure that any such participation complies with the Department’s policy on participation in outside organizations, available here.  In addition, this provision does not prohibit an employee from recommending federal colleagues as speakers to an outside organization or from representing an outside organization before the federal government in connection with a broad policy matter directed to the interests of a large and diverse group of persons.  Determining the precise scope of this provision can be challenging, however, and conduct not covered by this provision may still be subject to other restrictions.  See, e.g., 5 C.F.R.  § 3801.106,  Supplemental Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Department of Justice, “Outside Employment” (requiring, inter alia, prior approval of certain outside activities that involve a subject, policy, or program that is in the area of responsibility of the employee’s component).  Accordingly, employees who have any questions or concerns as to the permissibility of specific conduct should consult with an ethics official.

18 U.S.C. § 205

There are exceptions to the above statutes for representing an employee's immediate family, testifying under oath, representing another employee in personnel administration proceedings and representing a non-profit organization if a majority of the members are federal employees or their families.


Outside Employment and Activities: Additional Limitations

Generally, an employee should recognize her responsibility to make an honest effort to use government property and official time for official business only. An employee may not use the official time of another employee for anything other than official business.

5 C.F.R. § 2635.704 (Subpart G - Misuse of Position, Use of Government Property)

Department of Justice employees are generally authorized to make personal use of most office equipment and library facilities where the cost to the Government is negligible and on an employee's own time. 28 C.F.R. § 45.4. Personal use of DOJ computers and computer systems is permissible only as authorized.

An employee may engage in fundraising in her personal capacity as long as she does not solicit from subordinates or persons having business with the Department and she does not use her official title or position. In addition, soliciting should not be done on government property, or on government time.

An employee may not engage in fundraising, including active participation in a fundraiser, in her official capacity unless authorized by statute, executive order, regulation or agency determination. The only authorized fundraising in the Department is on behalf of the Combined Federal Campaign. However, an employee may be authorized to give an official speech at a fundraising event, if the circumstances are appropriate, even though this constitutes participating in a fundraiser.

5 C.F.R. § 2635.808 (see Subpart H - Outside Activities; Fundraising Activities)

Full-time Presidential appointees may not receive earned income for any outside activity performed during that appointment. Executive Order 12731. The outside earned income of other non-career officials in positions classified above GS-15 is limited to 15% of the salary for Executive Level II. 5 C.F.R. § 2635.804 (see Subpart H - Outside Activities; Outside earned income limitations). These officials also have other restrictions mainly related to providing fiduciary services for compensation. 5 C.F.R. § 2636.301 - 307 (see Subpart C - Outside Earned Income Limitations).

An employee may not use his public office for his own private gain or for that of persons or organizations with which he is associated personally. An employee's position or title should not be used to coerce another person into providing a benefit to the employee or others; to endorse any product, service or enterprise; or to give the appearance of governmental sanction to personal activities. An employee may use his official title and stationery only in response to a request for a reference or recommendation for someone he has dealt with in Federal employment or someone he is recommending for Federal employment.

An employee may not engage in a financial transaction using nonpublic information nor allow the use of such information to further his private interests or those of another. Nonpublic information is information an employee gains on the job which has not been made available to the general public and is not authorized to be made available upon request.

An employee shall use official time in an honest effort to perform official duties. In addition, an employee may not use the official time of a subordinate for anything other than official government business.

5 C.F.R. § 2635.701 - 705 (see Subpart G - Misuse of Position).


Outside Employment and Activities: Additional Specific Limitations

An employee shall satisfy in good faith his obligations as a citizen, including all just financial obligations imposed by law, especially those such as Federal, state or local taxes or child support payments.

5 C.F.R. § 2635.809 (see Subpart H - Outside Activities; Just financial obligations

An employee may not serve as an expert witness in her private capacity in any proceeding before the United States in which the United States is a party or has an interest, unless specifically authorized.

5 C.F.R. § 2635.805 (see Subpart H - Outside Activities, Service as an expert witness)

An employee may not be paid by anyone but the Government for performance of her official duties.

18 U.S.C. § 209

Purchase of Forfeited Property

Without written approval, an employee may not purchase or use property that has been forfeited to the Government and offered for sale by the Department of Justice or its agents.

No employee of the United States Marshals Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Drug Enforcement Administration shall purchase or use property formerly used by his component.

5 C.F.R. § 3801.104


Updated May 4, 2023