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Ethical Issue: Deciding if Something is a Gift or a Bribe

Mark P. Rossow, Ph.D, PE Retired

This online engineering PDH course describes the ethical issue of where to draw the line between what is a gift and what is a bribe. This issue can be difficult, and it is not surprising that while codes of ethics of professional engineering societies almost always condemn bribery, they provide little or no help in sorting out when a gift constitutes a bribe. Many large corporations publish guidance on when gift giving is appropriate for their employees, but the guidance typically covers only a few cases and is couched in generalities. In contrast, the federal government has formulated detailed rules covering gifts given to executive-branch employees in many situations. The rules are published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and are illustrated through many examples. Even though the examples are intended for government employees (many of whom are engineers), they also apply to private-sector engineers in similar situations. The purpose of this course is to present selected CFR examples that furnish guidance on the ethics of gift giving.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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NY PE & PLS: You must choose courses that are technical in nature or related to matters of laws and ethics contributing to the health and welfare of the public. NY Board does not accept courses related to office management, risk management, leadership, marketing, accounting, financial planning, real estate, and basic CAD. Specific course topics that are on the borderline and are not acceptable by the NY Board have been noted under the course description on our website.