Forms, Policies, & Guides

600 - Conflict of Interest Policy

Subject: Conflict of Interest Policy

Section: U600

Date: May 24, 2010


Purpose:

The purpose of this policy is to establish guidelines for conflicts of interest or commitment that might arise in the course of staff employees’ duties and external activities. This policy does not seek to unreasonably limit external activities, but instead seeks to emphasize the need to disclose conflicts and potential conflicts of interest and commitment, to manage such conflicts and to ensure that the University’s interests are not compromised.

As a basic condition of employment, all University staff employees have a duty to act in the University’s best interest in connection with matters arising from or related to their employment and other University activities. In essence, this duty means that staff employees must not engage in external activities that interfere with their obligations to the University, damage the University’s reputation, compete with the University’s interests, or compromise the independence of the University’s research and business activities, or can reasonably be seen as doing so. Staff employees likewise must not profit or otherwise gain advantage from any external activity at the University’s expense or engage in external activities under circumstances that appear to be at the University’s expense.

Policy:

Staff employees must disclose and avoid actual and perceived conflicts of interest or commitment between their University responsibilities and their external activities. Depending on the circumstances, employee participation in activities in which a conflict or perceived conflict of interest exists may be prohibited or may be permitted but affirmatively managed.

 

Definitions:

Staff employee: All part-time and full-time University staff employees, including officers who are not primarily academic employees within the meaning of the University’s Statutes or policies.

External activity: outside financial, business, political, professional, public service and academic activities.

Business activity: the full spectrum of University commercial activities, including but not limited to purchasing, selling, hiring, contracting, investing, licensing, and leasing.

Financial interest: anything of monetary value, including but not limited to, compensation, payments for service (e.g. consulting fees or honoraria), royalties, equity or ownership interests (with the exception of owning not more than 1% of any publicly traded class of shares of any company), and intellectual property rights.

Conflicts of commitment: when a staff employee’s external activities (e.g., consultation arrangements, service on boards, leadership positions in external organizations) involve a dedication of time or other obligations that interfere with the staff employee’s fulfillment of University responsibilities or when a staff employee uses University resources for external activities without appropriate authorization.

Relative: the spouse, domestic partner, and, whether by blood, adoption, marriage or domestic partnership, the child, parent, grandparent, sibling, grandchild, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, or any person residing in the immediate household (or the household of the spouse or domestic partner of any of these relatives) of the University employee, or his or her spouse or domestic partner.

Guidelines:

1.  A staff employee must fully disclose any external activity or financial interest of the staff employee or relative that would reasonably appear to be affected by or to affect the staff employee’s decisions, actions or participation in University business activities. Put another way, if a staff employee or staff employee’s relative is engaged in an external activity or has a financial interest then full disclosure is necessary if: (i) there is a chance that the interest or activity could reasonably appear to affect the staff employee’s decisions, actions or participation in University business activities; (ii) or there is a chance that the staff employee’s job duties or participation in other University activities could reasonably appear to affect the external activity or the interests of the external entity in which the staff employee or relative has a financial interest.

2. A staff employee must also disclose when they provide non-University related services to another entity, including a corporation, business, association, government agency or nonprofit organization as an officer, director, owner, agent, consultant, or employee when the services may involve the commitment of time during business hours or otherwise conflict in any way with the University’s interests or their responsibilities to the University.

 3. All disclosures required by this policy must be in writing to the department/unit head or to the appropriate University vice president as soon as a staff employee becomes involved in covered external activities, aware of an actual or potential conflict of interest or involved in a sexual, romantic, or external business relationship as provided in paragraph 12. Disclosures should provide details such as the nature of the external activity or financial interest, expected or actual role in the external activity, and whether there is compensation or other financial remuneration associated with the external activity. The department/unit head or appropriate University vice president shall respond in writing to acknowledge the disclosure and identify whether a written management plan is necessary. Depending on the nature of the conflict, a written management plan should be devised by, as appropriate, the unit’s lead, senior human resources representative or Human Resources, and must be approved by the head of the organizational unit (e.g., Dean, Director, Chairperson) with a copy maintained by the unit. At a minimum, management plans must: (i) address the external activity, interest, or commitment in a way that will ensure that it will not interfere with the interests of the University, (ii) ensure the staff employee is not participating in making decisions on the University’s behalf, which the external activity, interest, or commitment will cast doubt on the fairness or integrity of the University’s business dealings and (iii) establish a review and approval process as appropriate. To ensure continuity and appropriateness, review and, as needed, revision of the approved management plan should occur at least annually and also whenever there is a germane change in reporting relationships. If the at-issue relationship involves the leader of an organizational unit, the management plan must be reviewed and approved by the organizational leader to whom the at-issue unit leader is accountable.

 4. Staff employees who knowingly have or reasonably should know that they have (i) a financial interest in, (ii) a familial relationship with, or (iii) a relative who has a financial interest in, an individual or entity with whom the University is engaged or is actively considering engaging in a business activity, must disclose the interest or relationship and must not act on behalf of the University or otherwise participate in, or seek to directly or indirectly influence, any University decision or transaction regarding or related to that individual or entity. The following are examples of financial interests and relationships that must be disclosed:

• The landscaping business owned by the father of a staff employee in the Facilities Department seeks to bid on a University landscaping contract.

• A consulting firm bids on a contract to provide statistical analysis, and a staff employee is a partner in the firm.

• A staff employee recommends using an office supply company with an excellent reputation and owned by the staff employee’s brother.

5. The University encourages staff employees’ participation in professional, charitable, community, government, and other public service organizations, which can be beneficial to the staff employee and the University. However, staff employees must not allow external activities to interfere with fulfilling their responsibilities to the University. To avoid conflicts of commitment all external activities involving a significant time commitment during business hours or other obligations that may impact fulfilling responsibilities to the University must be disclosed to the department/unit head or the appropriate vice president of the University, who may approve (with or without modification and/or a management plan) the external activity if it advances or otherwise serves the University’s interests. The following are examples of external activities that must be disclosed:

• Serving as an officer of an organization when the commitment will require substantial travel and work during University business hours;

• Providing expert witness services in any civil or criminal case;

• Serving on the board of a nonprofit organization;

• Working as an editor or reviewer for a professional or academic journal; or

• Serving on a panel or committee for a professional organization.

 6. Staff employees must refrain from external activities involving personal gain or financial benefit for themselves or relatives (e.g., the purchase or sale of securities, real property, or other goods or services) in which they use, appear to use or likely have the opportunity to use, confidential information or special knowledge gained as a result of their employment by the University and/or participation in other University activities.

 7. Staff employees must use confidential information consistent with U601 Confidential Information Policy and must refrain from unauthorized disclosure of non-public information concerning the University's business activities, including but not limited to its investments, property development, sale or acquisition, and purchasing and contracting activities.

 8. Staff employees must not engage in the unauthorized use of University resources for his/her personal benefit or for the benefit of any other person or external organization. The following are examples of prohibited conduct:

• Using University property such as photocopiers or printers for an employee’s cosmetic business;

• Purchasing personal items with a University credit card or account;

• Spending considerable time on a telephone call for the staff employee’s consulting business during University business hours; or

• Donating old computers to a nonprofit organization without appropriate authorization.

 9. Staff employees must exercise good judgment in giving or receiving gifts or entertainment. It is sound practice to discourage personal gifts and favors from entities and individuals with whom the University engages in business activities or is considering engaging in business activities. Personal gifts of more than nominal value should be declined or returned to avoid any appearance or suggestion of improper influence. Entertainment or travel with a more than nominal value paid for by an external individual or entity must first be disclosed to and approved by the department head or an appropriate vice president of the University. Staff employees may only take vacations with individuals or other entities with which the staff employee directly engages in University business activities, regardless of who pays for the vacation, if the vacation is first disclosed to and approved by the department head or appropriate vice president of the University. The following are examples of prohibited conduct:

• An employee travels and speaks at a conference at a vendor’s expense without prior approval from the department head;

• An employee receives a $100 gift card from a vendor and uses it for personal use; or

• A department attends a dinner paid for by a potential vendor without prior approval by the appropriate vice president.

10. Staff employees involved in awarding or administering contracts using federal or other government funds are prohibited by law from soliciting or accepting gratuities, favors or anything of monetary value from contractors or potential contractors.

11. Staff employees must not make, participate in or attempt to influence other University employees’ decisions in University business activities involving a relative. Staff employees should refer to U206 Nepotism Policy for additional guidelines. The following are examples of prohibited conduct:

• A staff employee’s nephew applies for a Research Assistant position, and the staff employee pressures the hiring manager to hire the nephew;

• A vice president’s son wants a schedule change, and the vice president calls the son’s supervisor and encourages the schedule change; or

• A staff employee learns of his/her spouse’s possible termination of employment and encourages the supervisor to issue a warning instead of termination.

12. Staff employees must avoid favoritism or the appearance of favoritism that may be associated with making employment or business decisions related to a person with whom the staff employee has a romantic, sexual or external business relationship. A staff employee must disclose a personal, romantic, sexual, or external business relationship if it appears to create a conflict of interest or casts doubt on the fairness or integrity of the University’s employment or business decisions. Additionally, a staff employee may not make, participate in, or attempt to influence employment or other business decisions involving a person with whom the staff employee has a sexual or romantic relationship. Sexual and romantic relationships also may be proscribed by the University’s Policy on Harassment, Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct. The following are examples of relationships that must be disclosed:

• Pat, a staff employee has been dating another staff employee, Chris, and Chris applies for a position indirectly reporting to Pat.

• An employee at a business owned, in part, by a staff employee applies for a position in the department at the University in which the staff employee works, and the applicant may report, directly or indirectly, to the staff employee if hired.

• An employee’s neighbor and longtime friend applies for a position reporting directly to the employee.

13. Staff employees are strongly encouraged to disclose any other financial interest or external activity that could present an actual conflict of interest or commitment, or might reasonably be perceived to create a conflict of interest or commitment. Disclosure is a key factor in protecting one’s reputation and career from embarrassing or harmful allegations of inappropriate conduct. Staff employees are encouraged to seek guidance from their supervisor or HR even if their situation is not directly covered by the disclosure obligations in this policy.

 14. Failure to disclose an actual or potential conflict of interest or commitment or comply with an applicable management plan, is a violation of this policy and may result in corrective action up to and including termination of employment.

Employees represented by a bargaining unit may be governed by the appropriate bargaining unit agreement.