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

Use of Title or Agency’s Name

Except in limited circumstances, executive branch employees may not use their Government titles or an agency's name to suggest that the agency or any part of the executive branch endorses the employees' personal activities or the activities of another.

Permissible uses of title or agency's name

When engaged in teaching, speaking, or writing as outside employment or as an outside activity, an employee may refer to his or her official title or position as one of several biographical details:

  • when such information is given to identify him or her in connection with the teaching, speaking, or writing; and
  • when the title or position is not given any more prominence than other details in the biography.

An employee may sign a letter of recommendation using his or her official title only when the letter is in response to a request for an employment recommendation or character reference based upon personal knowledge of the ability or character of:

  • an individual with whom the employee has dealt in the course of Federal employment; or
  • an individual whom the employee is recommending for Federal employment.

Examples of prohibited conduct

Example 1: An executive branch employee may not use her official title to refer to her Government position in a book jacket endorsement of a novel that she likes or in a newspaper's review of the book.

Example 2: An executive branch employee may not write a character reference on agency letterhead for a childhood friend applying for a private sector job.

Example of permissible conduct

Example 1: A meteorologist employed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is asked by a local university to teach a graduate course on hurricanes. The university may include the meteorologist's Government title and position together with other information about his education and previous employment in course materials setting forth biographical data on all teachers involved in the graduate program. However, his title or position may not be used to promote the course.

Example 2: An employee of the Department of the Treasury who is asked to provide a letter of recommendation for a former subordinate on his staff may provide the recommendation using official stationery and may sign the letter using her official title.

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