United States Office of Government Ethics, Preventing Conflicts of Interest in the Executive Branch

Use of Government Time

Executive branch employees must use official time to perform official duties only. Except in limited circumstances, they are not allowed to perform activities other than official duties during their work day. Employees may not direct or request subordinates to use official time to perform any activities other than official activities.


If a statute or regulation authorizes an employee to use official time for purposes other than official duties, the employee may use official time to engage in those activities.

Examples of prohibited conduct

Example 1: Christine, an executive branch employee, also runs a catering business. It is difficult for her to reach her clients after hours, so she discusses menus and gives bids by telephone during work hours.

Example 2: Richard, a supervisor at a Government agency, has forgotten to use his lunch break to pick up the tennis racquet he dropped off for restringing last week. During the afternoon, he remembers the racquet and his evening tennis date, so he asks his secretary to pick up the racquet.

Example of permissible conduct

An employee of the Social Security Administration may use official time to engage in certain representational activities on behalf of the employee union of which she is a member. Under 5 U.S.C. § 7131, this is a proper use of her official time even though it does not involve performance of her assigned duties as a disability claims examiner.

The information on this page is not a substitute for individual advice. Agency ethics officials should be consulted about specific situations.