WASHINGTON — Verify is here to help you check your facts and in this case, check your holiday shopping list.
The holidays are a perfect time to say “thank you” to the people we interact with throughout the year, but could accepting a gift actually get someone in trouble?
Viewer Warren Z asked us to Verify:
“We give a cash tip to our mail carrier every year just before the holidays. However, recently I read that cash gifts are illegal for federal workers. Is that true?”
Are federal workers, like mail carriers, allowed to accept cash gifts?
Federal workers are not permitted to accept cash or certain other gifts, though there are other ways to show your appreciation.
WHAT WE FOUND:
The United States Postal Service addresses this in its policy. A USPS spokesperson tells Verify in an email:
“All postal employees, including mail carriers, must comply with the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch,” adding that “cash and cash equivalents, such as checks or gift cards that can be used like credit cards” – the ones with a Visa or American Express logo, for example – “must never be accepted in any amount.”
Ethics rules for federal workers outlined on the Department of the Interior’s website state when someone is receiving a gift because of their official position, they may not accept cash or checks made out to them “under any circumstance.”
So Warren, we can Verify: offering cash as a sign of your appreciation is not against the rules–but yes, it is against the rules for your mail carrier to accept it.
However, you still have options. The USPS spokesperson says under federal regulations, carriers can accept a gift worth twenty dollars or less, and this includes gift cards to stores and restaurants.