Note: This document is the content of the slides of the presentation on letters of recommendations and gifts. The PowerPoint presentation in handout format (pdf) is attached (revised 12/6/10). It is not compliant with the American with Disabilities Act for web site documents.

Letters of Recommendation

There are two rules that are triggered when an employee writes a letter of recommendation:

  1. a federal employee cannot represent another person before the federal government (statutory, section 205); and
  2. limitations with respect to use of official title and official letterhead (regulatory, subsection 2635.702(b)).

Representation Ban

Use of NIH Letterhead or Title

An employee may use government letterhead and sign a letter using her official title when asked to write:

LoR Example 1: Former NIH employee (who now works at a University) asks her former NIH supervisor to write a letter of recommendation for her to be used in application for a new position at the University. While the two former colleagues speak frequently, their relationship is now strictly personal.


LoR Example 2: Brother-in-law asks you to sign a letter he wrote for inclusion in a job application to GAO.


LoR Example 3: Grad student in your lab when you were an investigator at State University is applying for tenure at State University and asks for a letter of recommendation.


LoR Example 4: Current subordinates asks you for a letter of support to be included in a visa application.


Gifts Between Employees

Gifts To Superiors

Gifts From Employees Receiving Less Pay

Three exceptions:

  1. On an occasional basis, including occasions when gifts are traditionally given (e.g., birthdays, holidays), ok to give and receive if:
  2. 2. On special, infrequent ocdcasions, ok to give and receive an appropriate gift for the occasion if:
  3. Voluntary contributions can be solicited by subordinates and accepted by superiors for:

Gifts From Outside Sources

Gifts cannot be directly or indirectly

Prohibited source is any person or organization who:

Exclusions to the definition of a gift, so not a gift:

Exceptions to gift prohibition, so still a gift, but OK to accept:

Gifts Example 1: Office staff decides to hold a gift exchange at the holidays. Staff decided that gifts may not have a value of more than $15. Staff is both FTEs and contractors, subordinates and superiors. Is it OK for everyone to participate?


Gifts Example 2: A member of your staff is about to have a baby. A card is circulated and it is suggested that everyone puts money in the envelope as the gift. No amount is set or suggested. Staff is both FTEs and contractors (three on staff) and everyone puts in $20. Permissible?


Gifts Example 3: An NIH employee is invited to speak at the Conference of Super Scientists. Like all of the other speakers, the employee is given free attendance at the conference which includes a waiver of the registration fee and lunch from the sponsor of the event. Is this gift acceptable?


Gifts Example 4: An NIH Employee has been selected as the 2010 awardee by the Organization of Really Smart People. Along with the honor, the employee and his guest are invited to the Organization's dinner gala at which he will be presented with a plaque. 500 people are expected to attend the gala. Is this gift acceptable?


Posted 11/22/10