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Ethics rules

USPS Senior Ethics Counsel Jessica Brewster-Johnson

Jessica Brewster-Johnson wants to help Postal Service employees behave ethically — especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Brewster-Johnson, the senior ethics counsel at USPS headquarters in Washington, DC, is fielding lots of questions these days from employees who want to know what’s acceptable — and what isn’t — during the public health crisis.

“This is an unprecedented time, and some employees are encountering issues they really haven’t had to deal with before,” she says.

To help employees, Brewster-Johnson offers the following tips:

• Know the rules on gifts. If someone offers you something because you work for USPS, you should consider it a gift and apply the appropriate rules.

Generally speaking, the rules prohibit the acceptance of gifts. However, an employee could accept a retail gift card, as long as the value is $20 or less and the source doesn’t provide any single employee with gifts that exceed $50 during a given year.

• Avoid conflicts of interest. Employees are prohibited from participating — while in their postal role — in matters that involve their own private interests or those of other people, such as their friends and relatives.

A good rule of thumb: If you personally benefit, it’s probably against the rules.

• Don’t misuse postal property. USPS also prohibits employees from using postal property or work time for personal purposes — beyond authorized limited use — or other unauthorized purposes.

The Ethics Blue page has more information on all these topics, and the organization offers a hotline at 202-268-6346 that employees are encouraged to use.

Says Brewster-Johnson: “We don’t expect everyone to be an expert. We have a help line so we can answer questions.”

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