MIT Employees Temporarily Assigned to Federal Government: A Word of Caution

Employees who complete an IPA assignment are subject to the same post-federal employment regulations as former U.S. Government employees which can result in an employee being unable to continue with parts of their previous duties upon return to MIT.

From time to time, MIT employees take on temporary assignments with the U.S. Government.  A federal law, The Intergovernmental Personnel Act (“IPA”), allows such an assignment.  Employees of MIT (including those at MIT Lincoln Laboratory) who accept an IPA assignment remain on MIT’s payroll in an active pay status with benefits during the assignment. 

Despite never leaving the employment of MIT, employees who complete an IPA assignment are subject to the same post-federal employment regulations as former U.S. Government employees.  This can result in an employee being unable to continue with parts of their previous duties upon return to MIT. 

For example, MIT employees who advise or make source selection decisions about a federal acquisition while in an IPA assignment at a federal agency are prohibited from engaging in that same matter once they return to MIT.  Additional restrictions may exist for MIT employees if they receive total pay from federal or non-federal sources of a certain amount greater than basic rates of pay for government employees. These circumstances can result in adverse consequences for MIT employees upon the conclusion of their IPA assignment.

The good news: IPA assignment responsibilities can be structured in advance to minimize unwelcome complications.  Among the best ways to do so is to avoid participation in distinct acquisitions or contract negotiations.  Additionally, the Office of Government Ethics regulations applicable to former executive branch IPA assignees incorporate a limited exclusion for activities undertaken as an employee of an “accredited, degree-granting institution of higher education” provided the appearance, communication, or representation is being made on behalf of the institution.  This exception applies to MIT employees.

The Office of General Counsel can help ensure that participation in an IPA assignment does not foreclose the ability to continue critical research in one’s field of study upon return to MIT.  If you have any questions about the post-federal employment restrictions generally, or their applicability to specific IPA assignment responsibilities, please contact David Suski at 781-981-7094, or dsuski@mit.edu.