This is a basic guide to the restrictions placed upon former federal employees. All of these restrictions are imposed after you cease to serve the federal government, regardless of the position that you held.
The federal statute that imposes basic restrictions is 18 USC 207. However, there are many other statutes that have more specific restrictions for employees in certain government areas. If you worked on any expensive procurement projects for the government, you will be subject to further restrictions based on the Procurement Integrity Act.
There are also exceptions to the restrictions. You may be exempted to the restrictions outlined in 18 USC 207 if you send the federal government a written document that explains whether they had any government-related involvement connected to the work. This includes anything substantial and personal.
You will be subject to lifetime restrictions regarding certain conflicts of interest. No specific job or industry is banned to you. However, you will not be able to work on any matter that would cause you to influence something that you had control over as a government employee. For example, if you approved certain contracts, you could not then lobby the government on behalf of the project whose contract you approved. If you granted certain permits or licenses, you could not use your government knowledge to help companies achieve those same permits and licenses.
Basically, you can never be employed by a non-federal agency in any occupation that would require you to communicate with or influence the federal government. If your position would not involve a conflict of interest regarding the federal government, you may still be able to work with companies that you influenced during your time as a federal employee.
Every federal employee has different responsibilities depending on their position and their agency. The two-year restrictions are relevant to whatever responsibilities you had throughout your final year as a federal employee.
After you leave the federal government, there is a two-year period in which you cannot act as a representative for any non-federal company or agency that you may have worked with as a government employee. You cannot work with a federal court, agency, or department representing this entity’s interests.
Once more than two years have passed, you may represent the entity to federal officials, provided you don’t have any other ethical conflicts of interest.
You will be subject to certain restrictions during the year following your separation from the government.
You cannot offer advice to any non-federal company or agency with regards to any treaty or trade negotiations that you were a participant in during your final year employed by the government. After the year is over, you may offer advice as long as you do not have conflicts of interest or disclose any confidential information.
These are the basic laws that apply to all federal employees after they leave the government, regardless of their agency or position. However, further restrictions may apply to both senior employees and very senior employees.
Laws for Senior and Very Senior Government Employees
If you meet the qualifications for a very senior or senior government employee, you will generally be given an ethics counselor when you leave your position. They will be able to advise you on the legality of your future ventures in the private sector.
After you leave your position, you will be subject to a one-year restriction period in which you cannot make any attempt to influence your former department of employment. An ethics counselor may be able to advise about rare exceptions.
You will also be subject to a one-year restriction on your relations to foreign entities. You cannot represent or advise a foreign entity on any matter that would influence how any employees of the US government would act in an official capacity.
Very senior employees will have a two-year restriction period in which they will not be able to attempt to influence any Executive Level individual or anyone in their former department. These individuals include Cabinet officials and a few people in the President’s Executive Office.
If a former senior official had any responsibilities related to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, they have further restrictions on what they can represent in post-government employment.
Political appointees are also subject to extra employment restrictions.