The University of Alabama

A Question of Ethics: Gifts

Periodically, Dialog will feature questions and answers about the state ethics law and how it affects University employees. This month’s question addresses acceptance of gifts from vendors.

A vendor has been giving my department flowers on Valentine’s Day, a large fruit basket for Thanksgiving, and a collection of holiday cookies and candy at Christmas time for many years. We just received the cookies and candy. Is this a problem?

A.  No. After some controversy regarding seasonal gifts for teachers from students, under the December 2010 revisions to the Alabama Ethics Act this is a permissible practice subject to some limits.

B.  No. Everyone deserves some holiday cheer.

C.  Yes. Cookies and candy are full of trans fat and are bad for your health.

D.  Yes. The law has changed and seasonal gifts are not allowed under the Alabama Ethics Act under any circumstances.

ANSWER:  A. Before December 2010 the Alabama Ethics Act allowed University employees to receive seasonal gifts from vendors as long as the value of any one gift was less than $100 and the total value of such gifts over the course of a year was less than $250. Amendments to the Ethics Act in 2010 eliminated that exception, so receipt of such seasonal gifts was no longer allowed under the Ethics Act. However, after an outcry of objections when school children were told they could not give their teacher a small Christmas gift, the legislature further amended the Ethics Act to allow gifts of a small value, i.e. a value of no more than $25 per gift or a total of $50 per year.