University of Washington Policy Directory

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*Formerly part of the University Handbook
Presidential Orders

Executive Order

No. 32

Employee Responsibilities and Employee Conflict of Interest


The University of Washington has comprehensive policies concerning the broad spectrum of ethics issues that emerge in the complex and varied environment of University life. These policies reflect the underlying rationale, University expectations, and designated procedures for appropriate disclosure and review of conflicts of commitment and conflicts of interest, including financial interests that might bias or otherwise threaten the integrity of the results of sponsored projects.

Policies guide but are not sufficient in themselves to capture the essential qualities that should characterize the collegiality of the academic community. The University is first and foremost a community of scholars charged with the responsibility of educating the next generation. The institution provides the framework within which that task is carried out. To do so successfully and harmoniously requires that all cooperate in a spirit of mutual support and interest. To this end, the University provides modest incentives designed to encourage employees to go beyond their traditional responsibilities and engage in activities such as technology transfer, consulting, and other acts of creative productivity. But those incentives are not intended to be, nor can they be permitted to become, ends in themselves, lest the primary purpose of the academy be subverted. Whether in the context of consulting relationships that could bypass established institutional policies on transferring intellectual property or in negotiating personal rewards for a given intellectual contribution, every University citizen should make extra efforts to protect the interests of the institution. In this way, the larger goals of the educational enterprise will be sustained. To do otherwise would violate the spirit of the academy and the integrity of the task we accept as members of the academy. Such violations are avoided through adherence to University conflict-of-commitment and conflict-of-interest policies. Employees are encouraged to err on the side of protecting the interests of the academic community, even if doing so would in some small measure disadvantage them individually.


Basic Principles

In conformity with the Ethics in Public Service Act (Chapter 42.52 RCW), this policy sets forth basic principles of that act for reference for all University employees.

  A. No employee shall have an interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, that is in conflict with the proper discharge of his or her official duties. No officer or employee shall incur an obligation, of any nature, or engage in a business, transaction, or professional activity that is in conflict with the proper discharge of his or her official duties.

  B. No employee, except as provided by law, shall have a beneficial interest in a contract, sale, lease, purchase, or grant that may be made by, through, or is under the supervision of the employee, in whole or in part. No employee may accept, directly or indirectly, any compensation, gratuity, or reward from any other person beneficially interested in the contract, sale, lease, purchase, or grant; except such prohibition shall not apply to University officers and employees who have, with respect to that beneficial interest, complied fully with the provisions of Executive Order No. 57, Section 6, "Involvement with Commercial Enterprise, Deeper than Consulting," University of Washington Grants Information Memorandum 10, and, as applicable, National Science Foundation (GPM 510) 1995, and Public Health Service Regulations, 42 C.F.R., Part 50 and 45 C.F.R. Subtitle A.

  C. No employee shall, except in the course of official duties or incident to official duties, assist another person, directly or indirectly, whether or not for compensation, in a transaction involving the University:

    1) In which the employee has participated, or

    2) If the transaction has been under the official responsibility of the employee within a period of two years preceding such assistance.

    No officer or employee may share in compensation received by another for assistance that the officer or employee is prohibited from providing by law.

  D. A business entity of which an employee is a partner, managing officer, or employee shall not assist another person in a transaction involving the University if the employee is prohibited from doing so by Subsection C.

  E. No employee shall, directly or indirectly, ask for, give, receive, or agree to receive any compensation, gift, reward, or gratuity for performing, omitting, or deferring the performance of any official duty, unless otherwise authorized by law. See Board of Regents Governance, Standing Orders, Chapter 1, Section 8; Executive Order No. 62, and Executive Order No. 41.

  F. No employee shall employ or use any person, money, or property under the employee's official control or direction, or in his or her custody, for the private benefit or gain of the employee or another.

  G. After termination of employment with the University, no former employee shall, within a period of one year from the date of termination of such employment, accept employment or receive compensation from an employer if the former employee, during the two years immediately preceding termination of University employment:

    1) Was engaged in a substantial and significant way in the negotiation or administration on behalf of the University of one or more contracts with a total value of at least $10,000 with that employer;

    2) Was, as a consequence of such substantial and significant involvement in such negotiation or administration, in a position to make discretionary decisions affecting the outcome of such negotiation or the nature of such administration; and

    3) Will have duties of employment with the employer or the activities for which the compensation would be received that include fulfilling or implementing, in whole or in part, the provisions of such contract(s) or include the executive supervision or high-level managerial control of actions taken to fulfill or implement such contract(s).

  H. No employee may accept an offer of employment or receive compensation from an employer if:

    1) The employee knows,

    2) The employee has reason to believe, or

    3) The circumstances would lead a reasonable person to believe that the offer of employment or offer of compensation was intended, in whole or in part, to influence the performance or nonperformance of duties by the employee during the course of University employment.

  I. No former employee may subsequent to his or her University employment assist another person outside the University, whether or not for compensation, in any particular transaction involving the University in which the former employee participated during University employment.

  The above statements summarize provisions of the Ethics in Public Service Act and are provided for descriptive purposes only. In matters where the possibility exists of conflicts, reference should be made to one's supervisor, to the text of the Ethics in Public Service Act, and to the applicable federal regulations, particularly NSF Investigator Financial Disclosure Policy (GPM 510) 1995 and the PHSR, 42 C.F.R. Part 50 and 45 C.F.R. Subtitle A, and University of Washington Grants Information Memorandum 10.


Employment of More Than One Member of a Household

  A. In the appointment of its faculty and staff members, the University seeks those persons most qualified to fulfill the institution's teaching, research, and service obligations.

  B. Accordingly, members of the same family or household may be appointed to University faculty and staff positions when it has been determined that they are qualified for the position. Such determination as to qualification may not be made by the member of the candidate's family or household.

  C. An employee may not supervise another member of the employee's family or household.

  D. RCW 42.52.020 provides in part as follows: "No state officer or state employee may have an interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in a business or transaction or professional activity...that is in conflict with the proper discharge of the state officer's or state employee's official duties." RCW 42.52.070 further provides that "no state officer or state employee may use his or her position to secure special privileges or exemptions" for himself or herself, his or her spouse, child, parent, or other family or household member.

  E. The University considers the following as among the institutional transactions that involve a beneficial interest: appointment, termination of appointment, promotion, demotion, approval of salary increase or decrease.

  F. The restrictions made in Subsections 2.D and 2.E above and in Faculty Code, Section 24-50, "Conflict of Interest," do not themselves prohibit members of the same family or household being appointed to positions in the same unit of the University, but the restrictions of conflict of interest as defined in Subsection 2.D above must in all cases be fully observed.

BR, February 1971; S-A 38, March 1971, S-B 126, December 1975: both with Presidential approval; BR, September 19, 1977; Executive Order No. 32 of the President, February 27, 1998.

For related information, see:

  • Executive Order No. 35, "Policy on Candidacy for Public Office"
  • Executive Order No. 43, "Policy Governing Acceptance of Honoraria"
  • Executive Order No. 54, "Employee–Student Romantic Relationships and Conflicts of Interest"
  • Executive Order No. 57, "Outside Professional Work Policy"
  • Administrative Policy Statement 52.1, "Guidelines for Purchasing Equipment and Supplies"