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Best Practices: Using the Ethics Helpline

Dakotas District Human Resources Manager Thomas Elias
Dakotas District Human Resources Manager Thomas Elias turns to the USPS Ethics Helpline for assistance with workplace ethics matters.

Thomas Elias knows where to turn when he encounters a workplace ethical dilemma.

Elias, the human resources manager for Dakotas District, contacts the Ethics Helpline, a service offered by the USPS Ethics Office.

“I have contacted the helpline hundreds of times for everything from dealing with the use of government vehicles to gifts for supervisors, gifts between supervisors, the Hatch Act and use of official time,” he says.

The Postal Service encourages this behavior. The organization wants employees to behave ethically and recently began a campaign to educate workers on the federal government’s principles and standards.

Elias has three tips for employees who have ethics questions:

• Don’t be afraid to seek help. If someone asks Elias an ethics-related question about work and he doesn’t know the answer, he uses the helpline to get the information.

“I get questions about whether [customers] are allowed to hand out leaflets [at postal facilities]. Is it taking place in the parking lot or on the sidewalk? It makes a huge difference,” Elias says.

• Provide details. When using the helpline, “you need to be very clear … in your question,” he says.

• Understand what you’re asking. “Make sure the problem you are asking about is an ethics problem and not another type of problem, such as a timekeeping issue.”

The Ethics Helpline can be reached at 202-268-6346 or at

Elias has nothing but praise for the employees who staff the helpline.

“They are very good at getting back to you,” Elias says. “The answers I get back are very thorough and in-depth. I very seldom have to say, ‘Yes, but. …’”

“Best Practices,” a series on employees who demonstrate on-the-job excellence, appears regularly in Link.

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