Q&A about gifts and gratuities
Q. What should a FRA employee do with free items (pens, calendars, tote bags, radios and food) left by a vendor?
A. As mentioned in the Dec. 18 issue of Fermilab Today, the Code of Conduct prohibits employees from accepting any gratuity, gift or special favor from individuals or organizations with whom FRA is doing business or proposing to do business. The policy states that "except for advertising novelties of minimal value, gratuities shall be refused or returned."
This means that your actions depend on what the vendor leaves. Items such as calendars, pens and tote bags generally qualify as advertising novelties of minimal value and can be accepted. An item such as a radio probably does not qualify and should be refused or returned. Food is trickier. If you can politely refuse the food offered, you should do so. If the food is left behind, place it in a public area for general consumption. This helps remove the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Q. What should an employee do with a personal gift offered by a friend who works for a vendor to FRA?
A. Many employees regularly interact with the same vendor representative. Naturally, personal friendships can develop. A gift from a vendor-employed friend blends the line between your personal and professional life. In this situation you must remain conscious of the prohibition on gifts and gratuities and you must keep in mind the appearance of a conflict of interest created.
Whether you should accept a gift from a vendor-employed friend depends on your relationship with the person, the gift, the manner in which it was given and the appearance created by your acceptance. For example, if you received a personal gift at a separate function (e.g., dinner at your house); then you can probably accept the gift. If your interactions with a vendor only relate to their business at Fermilab, and they offer you a personal gift; you should probably decline or return the gift.
Clear cut answers are hard to come by. If you are offered a gift or have accepted a gift that you think may conflict with FRA policies, feel free to contact the Legal Office for specific advice.