Mistletoe the Line: Watch Out for Those Contractor (Bah!) Holiday Parties (Humbug!)

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ISAF / Army Sgt. Sean Harriman

U.S. troops in Afghanistan may not have alcohol at their holiday parties, unlike many of their stateside comrades, but they do warrant a visit from Santa.

Tired of getting those questions about contractors participating in holiday office parties and what kind of gifts can be exchanged between and among employees?

If so, you’re in luck as the Defense Department’s Standards of Conduct Office has some of the answers for common situations faced by Pentagon employees in its just-released Holiday Guidance memo.

Here’s one scenario:

If a contractor employee is having a personal party and invites Government personnel, normally Government personnel must decline, since the food, drink, and entertainment is a gift from a prohibited source. Several exceptions may permit attendance, however. Under the $20 rule, if the average cost per guest does not exceed $20, Government personnel may accept. (However, if the cost per guest is $40, the “I won’t eat more than $20 worth of food.” defense will not work.) [emphasis added]

But don’t be confined by the guidance if your situation doesn’t mesh with what’s in the memo. Big Santa’s holiday missive ends on this cheery note:

Have a wonderful holiday season. Please remember that this guidance only highlights common questions, and does not cover every situation. If you are unsure, contact your ethics counselor.

Happy Holidays!