As an NIU employee, you're not allowed to request or accept gifts from certain people or organizations. Your spouse is also banned from requesting or accepting gifts from these prohibited sources, as are immediate family members who live with you.
This gift ban is outlined in the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, 5 ILCS 430 (section 10-10). The ban helps prevent outside influence (or the appearance of it) on your job duties.
Please note: This overview provides general information. Ask the ethics officer about specific gifts you request or receive.
What Is a Gift?
A gift is anything worth money. Gifts can be physical items or abstract benefits. Examples of gifts include:
- Food and drink.
- Gift cards and gift baskets.
- Discounts, loans, hospitality and gratuity.
- Complimentary registration fees and travel expenses.
The people or organizations you may not accept gifts from are known as prohibited sources. A prohibited source meets any of these criteria:
- Does or seeks to do state business with you or NIU.
- Conducts activities regulated by you or NIU.
- Has interests that may be significantly affected by your job duties.
- Is registered or is required to be registered as a lobbyist.
For example, university vendors are prohibited sources, as are companies that have submitted bids for service.
Exceptions to the Ban
Certain gifts are considered to be exceptions to the ban. These exceptions include:
- Opportunities, benefits and services available to the general public under the same conditions.
- Gifts for which you paid market value.
- Educational materials connected to your job or the NIU mission that benefit the public.
- Travel expenses for a meeting to discuss state business that is connected to your job and benefits the public. The type of travel must be appropriate for state business.
- Gifts given to you by a relative or friend.
- Food or drink at a meeting or reception you attended as part of your job.
- Benefits related to outside business or employment activities.
- Gifts within the same state agency or between two different state agencies.
- Bequests, inheritances and other transfers at death.
For example, the following would be considered exceptions:
- A holiday present from a co-worker.
- A discount offered by a phone company to all state employees.
- Coffee and pastries served at a conference.
An off-site dinner after a conference that doesn't include a speaker or business agenda would not be considered an exception.
What If I Receive a Gift?
You can keep a gift from a prohibited source if it's an exception to the ban. If possible, get approval from the ethics officer in advance if you plan to rely on an exception to accept a gift.
If a prohibited source gives you a gift not considered an exception, you have three options:
- Return the gift to the sender.
- Donate the gift to a 501 (c)(3) charity.
- Keep the gift and donate an amount equal to the gift to a 501 (c)(3) charity.
Be sure to keep any documents that show what you did with the gift, such as a donation receipt. This documentation will be helpful if the gift's acceptance is ever called into question.
If you have any questions about the gift ban, contact: