Know The Rules: Restrictions Surround The Hiring Of Former Federal Employees

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Steve Charles
Steve Charles

When hiring former federal employees, you need to be aware of the many restrictions placed on these individuals. Former federal employees who willfully break these restrictions court felony conviction -- and, by extension, so do company officials who knowingly encourage these individuals to break these restrictions.

First and foremost, former federal employees are banned for life from communicating with their former agency on behalf of another person or organization on matters in which they participated "personally and substantially," if their intention is to influence events. The ban extends to any matter in which former federal employees had direct and significant involvement.

The lifetime ban doesn't apply to behind-the-scenes assistance to a company that seeks to influence the government -- with emphasis on "behind-the-scenes." If the assistance is done in a way that makes the involvement common knowledge, it's no longer behind-the-scenes.

There also are temporary cooling-off periods. Former federal supervisors can't communicate with the government for two years with the intent to influence any matter that fell under their official responsibility during their last year of government service. This is different from the lifetime ban, which requires personal and substantial participation in a matter. In this case, the mere fact that a subordinate was involved with a matter is enough to require supervisors to stay outwardly silent on the issue for two years.

In addition, if federal employees had anything substantial to do with source selection for a contract worth more than $10 million, they can't accept a job with the company awarded the contract for one year from the award date. The restriction applies to former federal employees who, at the time of selection of the contractor or the award of a contract to that contractor, served as the procuring contracting officer, the source selection authority, a member of a source selection evaluation board, or the chief of a financial or technical evaluation team.

These employees, however, can accept a job with the company awarded the contract if they are in a division or affiliated company that does not produce the same or similar products or services as contracted for, although clearly only the largest companies can take advantage of this exception.

Similarly, program managers, deputy program managers and administrative contracting officers overseeing the post-award phase of a contract worth more than $10 million are prohibited for one year from working for the company awarded the contract (separate divisions excluded), starting from when they last served in that position.

Meanwhile, former senior civil servants are subject to a one-year prohibition on communication with their former agency on behalf of another person concerning any matter. To be "senior," a federal employee must have been paid, as of this writing, at least $155,440.50 a year, have held the military rank of brigadier general or real admiral, or have been a presidential appointee.

Former "very senior" federal employees have an even stricter cooling-off period preventing them from communicating not just with employees of their former federal agency for two years, but also with other very senior federal employees who served during the last year of their employment. Very senior federal employees are almost all political appointees and earn at least $199,700.

The preceding information was adapted and digested from the book "The Inside Guide To The Federal IT Market,” published by Management Concepts Press. For more information, visit

Steve Charles is co-founder and executive vice president of immixGroup, which helps technology companies do business with the government. He is a frequent speaker and lecturer on technology and the federal procurement process. He can be reached at


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