5.2.1 Conflict of Interest

Policy Section: Conditions of Employment

Policy Number and Title: 5.2.1 Conflict of Interest
Applicable to: All Regular Employees
Effective Date: December 17, 2018

Responsible Executive: Lianne Sullivan-Crowley

Responsible Office: Office of Human Resources

Contacts: hr@princeton.edu, 8-3300

Last Update: December 12, 2017

Policy Description

Employees of Princeton University who act on its behalf have an obligation to avoid activities or situations that may result in a conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest as described by Princeton’s various conflict of interest policies. Conflicts of commitment are included in the practical interpretation of this policy.

Conflict of interest situations may involve one or more of the following circumstances:

  1. Nepotism and/or personal relationships, including employing members of the same family or household
  2. Consulting and other outside activities
  3. Purchasing and contracts
  4. Use of University resources
  5. Gifts and gratuities
  6. Solicitation and distribution

More specifically:

  1. Employees must not use their Princeton University affiliations or positions to influence, directly or indirectly, outside organizations, or individuals for the financial, personal, or professional benefit of themselves, members of their families, or others with whom there are personal relationships.
  2. In or outside of the workplace, supervisors must not (a) use their positions to influence their staffs to provide gifts, donations, or contributions of any kind, (b) solicit their staffs for funding or other support for political candidates or campaigns, and/or (c) have a personal relationship within their reporting line.

Application of This Policy

All employees have an affirmative obligation to examine carefully any situation where there is potential for conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest. Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action.

Employees who are concerned or uncertain should always consult with their supervisor or the Office of Human Resources prior to engaging in the activity.


To protect the employee as well as the University should allegations of conflict of interest arise, an annual disclosure is required of all administrative and support staff in administrative and academic departments to disclose any of the following conditions, whether or not the employee believes a conflict or potential conflict exists:

Nepotism & Personal Relationships

The employees has initiated or participated directly or indirectly in decisions that provide a direct benefits, e.g., hiring, merit increases, work assignments, performance appraisals, etc., to persons related by blood, marriage, or civil union, or members of the same household, including domestic partners or persons with whom there is a personal relationship.

Consulting & Outside Employment or Other Outside Activities

The employee has worked (paid or unpaid) as an employee, e.g., second job, owner, operator, independent contractor, or consultant, etc., for any organization, business, or individual other than Princeton University.

The employee has a management or other fiduciary role in any organization other than Princeton that includes, but is not limited to service as an officer, board of director, or supervisor or manager. It also includes any type of scientific, technical, advisory, or other board appointment. Employees should be aware that the potential for conflict of interest or commitment increases substantially if they or others with whom there is a personal relationship benefit or are rewarded financially.

It is not possible to define a precise and comprehensive test on conflict of interest. The following questions highlight certain situations where conflict of interest may occur. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions or if your personal situation raises other concerns or questions with which you are uncomfortable or uncertain, you should review the particulars with your supervisor or senior human resources manager. Refer to all policies in section 5.2 Conflict of Interest and policy 2.1.5 Hiring Members of the Same Family or Household.

  1. Will the decisions made by the person in an outside consulting, job, or business position influence or appear to influence action taken by the University and vice versa?
  2. Are there individuals, organizations, businesses, entities, or other affiliations that can reasonably be expected to deal with the employee in both positions?
  3. Does the department in which the employee works provide any funding directly or indirectly to the outside position?
  4. Does the employee hire, supervise, or otherwise engage Princeton employees in outside activities?
  5. Does the employee’s business, job, and/or consulting service compete or appear to compete with similar services normally provided by or for Princeton University? Employees must not use their Princeton University affiliations or positions to influence, directly or indirectly, outside organizations or individuals for the financial, personal, or professional benefit of themselves, members of their families, or others with whom there are personal relationships.
  6. Is there a conflict of time commitment? If no conflict of interest exists, disclosure and determination may still be needed concerning conflict of commitment.

Purchasing & Contracts

Employees may not make decisions or have the authority to make or influence decisions as employees of Princeton University regarding any organization they or persons related to the employees by blood, marriage or civil union, or members of the same household, including domestic partners, or persons with whom the employee has a personal relationship regarding any organization or enterprise where they have:

  1. a significant financial interest defined as greater than one percent of such organization’s stock or ownership interest
  2. current or pending employment, ownership, consulting, management, fiduciary or similar affiliation
  3. solicited or accepted gifts, gratuities, favors, or anything of monetary value, including and not limited to current or potential vendors or contractors or their agents, other than ordinary business courtesies, such as payment for a meal or event, or promotional items without significant value that are distributed routinely.

Gifts & Solicitations

Employees may not solicit or accept gifts or perquisites from vendors, contractors, local businesses, University departments, or others with whom there is a potential or ongoing professional relationship, including travel expenses, meals, hotel accommodations, or their reimbursement. Exceptions include ordinary business courtesies such as payment for a meal or event, or gifts which are promotional items without significant value and which are distributed routinely.

Employees may not engage in fundraising events with coworkers on behalf of charitable organizations. Exceptions include passive fundraising events, e.g., an office display for selling Girl Scout cookies, etc., and University-sponsored activities, e.g., the United Way.

Use of University Resources

Employees should avoid using their offices, shops, staff (including their own time during normal working hours), equipment, supplies, computers or tablets, telephones, or computer systems and any other University resources for non-University-related activities. While there may be some occasional instances when business related correspondence or the like is received at work, employees may not routinely conduct outside business at work. Personal calls should be kept to a minimum per University policy.

Employees should avoid inappropriate use of their University positions, including appearing to speak on behalf of or representing the University; distributing or using for personal gain any information not generally available to members of the public, which is acquired by reason of the employee's official duties; or receiving compensation for distributing University information, which is generally available.


Annually, all regular and term benefits-eligible staff members complete the Annual Disclosure and Certification Form at the start of the calendar year. Individuals are required to disclose even if they are unsure of conflict situations, i.e., err on the positive side of disclosure.

Individuals also have a continuing obligation to complete and submit a new Annual Disclosure and Certification Form at any time during the year as it pertains to conflict of interest or conflict of commitment when there is any actual or anticipated significant change in their outside activities or related financial interests.

Disclosure Form

All circumstances as described above must be reported to the employee's supervisor, following departmental procedures and using the Conflict of Interest & Conflict of Commitment — Annual Disclosure Form.

Clearly, reaching some arbitrary threshold does not imply that a conflict (or even a potential conflict) of interest exists, but requiring disclosure under these conditions is considered a type of safety net, a cost effective "insurance policy" for both the employee and the supervisor.

The supervisor should review the disclosure form confidentially with the employee and confirm that no potential for conflict exists.

Resolving the Situation

If a conflict, potential conflict or an appearance of conflict does exist, the supervisor should assess the matter and decide how best to resolve the situation. Supervisors may consult with their department heads as needed. Employees or their supervisors may also consult with their senior HR manager to assess the situation and determine an effective resolution.

If the situation warrants, the department head will refer the situation to the Vice President for Human Resources for final determination

Supervisor Responsibility

To ensure that employees understand the importance and requirements of this policy and complete the annual staff disclosure form and that there is adequate and timely review, supervisors should:

Other Considerations


Not adhering to this policy is considered a serious matter and may result in disciplinary action, up to and including the termination of employment.


All information and materials will be kept confidential by the supervisor. In the event of exceptional circumstances, material will be made available to the Office of Human Resources, the Office of General Counsel, and the Office of Audit and Compliance.

Related Documents

Annual Disclosure and Certification Form

Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment: Understanding Your Obligations

2.1.5 Employment of Members of the Same Family or Household

5.2.2 Nepotism and Personal Relationships in the Workplace

5.2.3 Consulting and Other Outside Activities

5.2.4 Purchasing and Contracts

5.2.5 Use of University Resources

5.2.6 Gifts and Gratuities

5.2.7 Solicitation and Distribution


Office of Human Resources


(609) 258-3300

Update Log

December 14, 2015: Clarification of procedure.

September 29, 2016: Clarification of role of supervisors.

December 12, 2017: Clarification of annual disclosure process and expectations.

December 17, 2018: Clarification of conflict of interest responsibilities and expectations