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Ethics - Gifts Between Employees

What about gifts to the boss?

With a few exceptions, the general rule is that you cannot give, make a donation to, or ask for contributions for a gift to your official superior. An official superior includes your immediate boss and anyone above your boss in the chain of command in the Department. Also, an employee cannot accept a gift from another employee who earns less pay, unless the person giving the gift is not a subordinate and the gift is based on a strictly personal relationship.

When can I give my boss a gift?

You may give your boss a gift on an occasion when gifts are traditionally given or exchanged, such as a birthday or Christmas, or after a vacation trip. At those times, gifts valued at $10 or less - but not cash - are permitted.

You always may contribute a nominal amount for food that will be shared in the office among several employees including your boss and may bring food to share. You also can invite your boss to your home for a meal or a party. If your boss invites you to his or her home, you can take the same type of gift for your boss that you would normally take to anyone else's home for a similar occasion.

You also may give your boss a gift on a special, infrequent occasion of personal significance, such as marriage, illness, birth, or adoption. And you may give your boss a gift on an occasion that ends your employee-boss relationship, such as retirement, resignation, or transfer. Such gifts given on these occasions may exceed the $20 limitation, but should be reasonable in relation to the specific occasion.

For these special, infrequent occasions, employees also are allowed to ask for contributions of nominal amounts from fellow employees on a strictly voluntary basis for a group gift. A boss may never pressure you to give a gift, or to contribute toward a gift, to anyone.

Remember that gift giving is strictly voluntary. A boss may never pressure you to give a gift.

Some Gifts Permitted Between Employees

  • Nadia may collect small voluntary contributions from other persons in her office in order to buy a cake to celebrate the birthday of her supervisor or a co-worker.
  • Clarissa may participate in the exchange of gifts in the office holiday grab bag by buying and contributing a tape cassette worth $10.
  • Kailash may collect contributions to purchase a fishing rod and tackle box for his boss when his boss retires, and may suggest a specific, but nominal amount, provided that he makes it clear to his coworkers that they are free to contribute less or nothing at all.
  • Upon returning from a trip to Hawaii, Ralph may bring a jar of macadamia nuts to his boss.

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