Question: Our office has holiday parties and gift exchanges. Could we be violating ethics rules?

Answer: Ethics rules do not prohibit one federal employee from giving a gift to another, or accepting a gift from another, as long as personal friendship justifies the gift and they are not in the same chain of command.

However, in general, employees may not give gifts to their official superior or anyone else at higher pay, and such persons similarly may not accept them. There are exceptions for: gifts (except for cash) worth less than $10; food and refreshments to be generally shared in the office; hospitality at a residence of the sort typically provided to friends; and the type of gifts that guests customarily give hosts in such situations.

Also, an employee may not ask another for a contribution toward a gift for either’s official superior, except for small amounts toward food and refreshments to be generally shared.

The policies are on the Office of Government Ethics website. Your agency might have additional restrictions; check with your agency’s ethics office.

Also, tighter rules apply to gifts from outside sources that do business with your agency or have a stake in agency decisions.