Federal Workers Should Be Wary of Outside Employment During Furloughs

Federal workers are facing being laid off several days without pay; they're being advised not to seek private sector employment to make up the difference.

Federal workers are facing being laid off several days without pay; they’re being advised not to seek private sector employment to make up the difference.

WaPo Federal Eye (“Army cautions about outside employment during furloughs“):

The Army has warned its civilian employees that obtaining or even seeking outside employment while furloughed could trigger ethical considerations that would require approval from management and potentially affect their regular jobs.

The guidance, posted online Friday, comes as the Army along with the rest of the Defense Department prepares to furlough most employees for 11 days over three months starting the week of July 8, and as employees face the resulting loss of income.

“Army employees should be mindful that they remain subject to the ‘normal’ ethics rules (e.g., Joint Ethics Regulation), when furloughed,” the guidance says.

For example, it says, “Once an employee starts to seek outside employment, the employee is disqualified from personally and substantially participating in a particular matter that will have a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of a current or prospective employer.”


The Office of Government Ethics and the Office of Personnel Management have sent similar warnings, saying that ethical restrictions continue to apply because furloughed workers remain federal employees; they are placed in a status akin to other forms of leave without pay such as parental leave.

This is, of course, both wildly unfair and absolutely necessary. The furloughs are a breach of a good faith understanding people have when taking employment with the government; working for private sector companies that create a conflict of interest would be a greater breach, however, and can’t be tolerated.

FILED UNDER: Open Forum, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Scott says:

    Second jobs have always been subject to approval. I see this as a reminder, nothing more.

  2. Al says:

    Most of the employment contracts that I’ve signed require management approval before you start looking for a new job, a second job or moonlighting. This doesn’t strike me as wildly unusual or unfair. (In fact, in the civilian world most of the employees probably would have been laid off rather than furloughed.)

  3. DC Loser says:

    I’m so glad I retired before all this crap happened.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @Scott: @Al: Sure. But they’re usually paid for 365 days a year, too. Here, they’d ostensibly be working while not working for the government. Not that there are a lot of 11-day jobs that would create a conflict of interest.

  5. Scott says:

    What I find interesting is that the federal workers (in particular, the managers and higher paid professionals) are being warned not to check their Blackberrys and email (or take work home) on their days of furlough. Presumable it is OK on evenings and weekends but not furlough days. The logic has escaped me so far.

  6. Al says:

    @James Joyner: Furloughs are becoming much more common than you think. Both my current employer (whom you’ve probably heard of) and previous employer (whom you’ve definitely heard of) regularly furlough their employees over the Christmas holiday, usually between three to five days.

  7. DC Loser says:

    There were discussion amongst federal employees during previous furlough scares. A couple of ideas were thrown around as to what to do during our ‘down time’ if we were furloughed. There were the ones of standing on highway medians with signs saying “Will (insert work description) for food.” – Will spy for food, etc…. And there were the suggestions to have flashmobs of furloughed feds materializeing around the US Capitol. Man, I so much wish that would happen.

  8. Andy says:

    Don’t see how this is really a problem. We’re talking 11 days on average which, for most of us, will be spread out to 1 day a week. There are very, very few employers that would hire someone to work one day a week for a couple of months.

  9. If someone is a procurement official that person can’t go to work part time for General Dynamics just because he or she is furloughed for a few days. What’s wrong with that? A conflict of interest is a conflict of interest whether you are working a day, a week a month or a year. If someone doesn’t like ethical standards they don’t have to work for the federal government — or they can transfer to the IRS.