The U.S. Government outlines a code of ethics for government employees to dictate appropriate behavior and decision-making while working in service for the government. The code of ethics was passed by the United States Congress on July 11, 1958.


Government employees are expected to be loyal to people, parties and departments of the U.S. government. They should uphold the U.S. Constitution, laws and regulations. Under the code of ethics, government employees may not engage in business with the government that is inconsistent with performing their duties.

In some circumstances, government employees may need to obtain permission from their employing government agency in order to participate in certain activities or employment, according to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

Government employees are expected to expose corruption when it is discovered.

Work Ethics

Government employees are expected to give a full day’s work for a full day’s pay, working in earnest and striving to develop more efficient ways to accomplish tasks. Also, government employees are forbidden to ask or demand that subordinate employees use official working time to carry out unrelated job tasks or responsibilities.

Personal Gain

Under the code of ethics, government employees should not offer special favors or privileges to others. Also, government employees should not receive special favors or benefits. Public officials may not receive bribes, must refrain from accepting gifts to influence official acts, influence other public officials or neglect their lawful duties.

Exceptions to receiving gifts include gifts valued at $20 or less, as long as gifts from the same person doesn’t exceed $50 within one calendar year, gifts of free attendance to widely-attended events, modest refreshments (for example, coffee and donuts) and meals, refreshment and entertainment in foreign countries.

Government employees are forbidden from using information gained from government duty to enjoy private profit. Former employees of the U.S. executive or legislative branch who substantially participated in negotiations or treaties, or had access to privileged information, must wait one year before working to advise anyone about the relevant treaty or negotiation.

While employed in an official government capacity, employees may not receive outside compensation for activities including writing, speaking or teaching as related to official duties.

Financial Disclosure

According to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, some senior officials of the executive branch may be required to file reports, made available to the public, detailing their financial situation. That might include real estate, stocks, bonds, retirement benefits, personal loans or revolving charge accounts.

Government employees may also be asked to submit confidential financial documents during evaluation processes, disclosing information about things like bank account statements, money market mutual funds or government securities.

Understanding the Code of Ethics

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics maintains lists of ethics-related legislation to guide government employees in ethical behavior. Aside from offering solutions to common ethics dilemmas, the office provides tips on how to deepen ethical commitment within the government workplace. For example, the office provides tips on how to encourage government employees to better understand the ethics of receiving gifts.