Dec. 3, 2009

How to stay on the right side of the gift law

by Diana Pounds

If you plan to do any gift giving (or getting) at the office over the holiday, you might want to brush up on the Iowa Gift Law, which applies to all state employees.

Here are the basics from Keith Bystrom, associate university counsel.

  • An individual shouldn't accept a gift valued at $3 or more from anyone who does business or seeks to do business at Iowa State. These "restricted donors" include a company selling products, an ISU student or someone seeking a job.
  • Legal ways to handle a gift valued at $3 or more are to: politely return it or donate it to a university department, another public body or a local charity. The gift law prohibits gifts to individual university employees, but not to the university.
  • Employees may exchange gifts with colleagues and supervisors. Gifts to supervisors must stay under the $3 mark. Gifts from supervisors, even those above the $3 limit do not violate the gift law, but supervisors should avoid any appearance of favoritism or personnel issues could arise.
  • Employees may participate in office exchanges in which each contributes a gift under a specified value according to Regent's rules. However if the person receiving a gift during an office gift exchange has the ability to set salaries, approve expenditures, or hire and promote another participant in the exchange, the gifts would be prohibited unless they are food and drink worth less than $3.
  • Employees can't accept cash gifts from "restricted donors" in any amount.

More details on the gift law are in the policy library.