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This Holiday Season, Brush Up on the Ethics of Receiving Gifts From Contractors, Vendors and Suppliers

Published: Nov. 29, 2022

The holiday season is upon us. During this time of giving and receiving gifts, it’s important to remember that not all workplace gifts are appropriate.

Considerations vary depending on who’s giving the gift, but our focus here is gifts from contractors, vendors and suppliers. Methodist Health System has gift guidelines that can be found in our appropriately titled policy “Gifts and Solicitation with Contractors Vendors, and Suppliers.”

These policy guidelines are designed to prevent even the appearance of impropriety. Strong ethics are very important to our corporate culture, so the gift guidelines serve as administrative controls to prevent actual and apparent bribery, unfairness, and all other forms of unethical behavior. Adhering to ethical business practices when selecting and interacting with external (and, for that matter, internal) parties doesn’t preclude accepting and requesting gifts and other “perks” from contractors, vendors and suppliers, but we must go about it in an ethical and transparent way.

Gifts from contractors, vendors and suppliers can be things like meals paid for by vendor representatives or entertainment such as a sporting event. We call these types of gifts “business courtesies,” and, while these things aren’t prohibited, guidelines must be followed. The maximum value for a single business courtesy is $350 per person, and it must not include travel or overnight lodging. If the offered gift exceeds this limit, you are obligated to refuse or return it. A gift of training or education can be accepted, but, if travel is required, Methodist will cover those costs. Personal gifts, such as bags and pens, may be accepted, and the limit for these types of gifts is $75 per vendor per year.

There are certain things that are not permitted, too. It’s never appropriate to solicit a personal gift from a contractor, vendor or supplier. If you’re involved in the direct care of a patient, you cannot accept a gift of any value from that patient or their family. You should never accept gifts of cash or cash equivalents, like gift cards; if cash is gifted, it will be donated to the appropriate Methodist foundation. And the biggest never of all: You should never promise something to a contractor, vendor or supplier in exchange for a gift or courtesy. This kind of arrangement is called a “quid pro quo” (which is Latin for “something for something”), and it is precisely the kind of behavior that our policy aims to prevent.

If you have any questions about whether a gift is appropriate or acceptable, please reach out to the Compliance Department for guidance. We urge you to continue to be thankful for all you have, give generously whenever you’re able and, most importantly, have a happy and ethical holiday season.