Policy Number: 20
Conflict of Interest and Outside Activities
I. POLICY AND GENERAL STATEMENT
The primary responsibility of university employees is the accomplishment of the duties and responsibilities assigned to their positions at the university. External consulting, outside employment or other activities that interfere with those duties and responsibilities are not acceptable. At the same time, the university recognizes the benefits of employees’ participation in activities of a consultative or advisory capacity with governmental agencies, private industry or other institutions that are not in conflict with the proper discharge of their duties and responsibilities in the public interest. In keeping with the university's mission to serve its stakeholders, the university believes these activities improve the performance of an employee by virtue of his or her continuing contact with issues/problems in the nonacademic world and serve to promote the university.
Employees of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (“university”) may not:
- Accept or solicit any gift, favor or service that might tend to influence the way the employee performs his or her job or that the employee knows or should know is being offered with the intent to influence the employee’s conduct;
- Accept other employment or engage in a business or professional activity that the employee might reasonably expect would require or induce the employee to disclose confidential information acquired through his or her employment at the university;
- Accept other employment or compensation that could reasonably be expected to impair the employee’s independence of judgment in the performance of his or her duties at the university;
- Make personal investments that could reasonably be expected to create a substantial conflict between the employee’s private interest and the public interest; or,
- Intentionally or knowingly solicit, accept or agree to accept any benefit for having exercised the employee’s official powers or performed the employee’s official duties in favor of another.
For further explanation and guidance for each of the situations above, refer to the Conflicts of Interest Guidelines of this policy or contact the Office of Institutional Compliance (OIC). Additional information can also be found in the Standards of Conduct Guide.
Employees should report any suspected wrongdoing to their immediate supervisors or to the OIC. Employees may also anonymously report suspected violations to the toll-free Compliance Hotline at 1-888-472-9868. In accordance with HOOP Policy 108 Protection from Retaliation, retaliation for a good-faith report of suspected wrongdoing will not be tolerated. Detailed information on reporting possible violations may be found in the university’s Standards of Conduct Guide.
Appropriated money may not be used to compensate an employee who violates the standards contained in this policy. Failure to comply is grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. Additionally, civil and criminal penalties may apply under certain circumstances.
A. Required Conflict of Interest Disclosures
Employees are required to report participation in and income earned from outside activities when requested through the annual financial disclosure process. Additional activity reporting may be required by individual schools or units at the university. The report shall be in the form provided through the OIC. Anyone to whom these principles apply who fails to provide the report, upon being notified of such failure and not remedying such failure, is subject to disciplinary action. Failure to provide the required disclosure and to abide by the principles herein places the university at considerable risk, and therefore may constitute good cause shown for termination. It is incumbent upon all faculty and staff members to bring to the attention of their immediate supervisors, within 30 days of their creation, those circumstances that arise during the course of the fiscal year that alter the existing disclosure report of that individual. The 30 day requirement does not apply to consulting agreements or other relationships where a formal contract is required, which are to be reported prior to execution of the contract.
The OIC shall maintain a Conflicts of Interest Committee (COIC), established by the Executive Compliance Committee, to review the financial disclosures from all employees. The OIC shall provide the COIC with such summaries, reports or disclosure statements as it may require. The COIC is responsible for reviewing all conflict of interest cases involving activities, whether reported on the annual and periodic disclosures or otherwise, that are in potential conflict with employees’ proper discharge of their duties and responsibilities in the public interest. The COIC will conduct a thorough review of each case and will either approve or deny the proposed activity and make recommendations to faculty and staff members.
The approval of The University of Texas System Office of General Counsel and of the Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs is also required for employees who are pursuing sponsored research agreements or licensing agreements for intellectual property with entities where they have equity or serve as a board member, officer or key employee.
Any instance of potential conflict of interest or commitment, or oversight of any such instance, which does not comport to the substantive guiding principles herein, and which is not voluntarily resolved following written advice from the COIC to the faculty or staff member within 90 days, shall be reported to the Chief Compliance Officer for a recommendation to the President concerning either elimination or management of the conflict. The President shall in such instance communicate in writing to the COIC and the person involved a directive for the elimination or management of such conflict. The involved person shall provide a written report acknowledging compliance with the directive to the COIC.
Pre-existing relationships that were approved and/or allowed under the prior policy, but which are not in full compliance with the principles herein, will be reviewed and considered on a case-by-case basis.
In accordance with UT System Administration Policy UTS 109, Chancellor and Presidents of the University of Texas System: Financial Disclosure and Conflict of Interest Statement, The President of the university shall file a separate financial disclosure and conflict of interest statement with the Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs.
B. Outside Activities
1. Prior Approval Requirement
Any outside activities, including self-employment, consulting or employment by another entity, whether compensated or not, must first be approved by the employee’s dean/administrative equivalent or designee. All requests must be approved in writing in advance. The request will describe the type of work, the hours to be worked, and whether the service will be compensated. The request must indicate that the work will not conflict with the individual's regular employment at the university. The Request for Approval of Participation in Outside Employment Activities template may be used for this purpose. If the employment is with another Texas state agency or institution of higher education, the employee and supervisor must follow the procedures outlined in HOOP Policy 21 Multiple Employments with Texas State Agencies. Individual immediate supervisors have the right to limit an employee’s outside activities if they conflict with the employee’s ability to perform the obligations of his or her university responsibilities.
2. Faculty Outside Activities
Faculty members may devote up to 30 working days in any fiscal year to attending/speaking at conferences, symposia, seminars, or to outside consultative or advisory activities with governmental agencies or other institutions, whether compensated or not, as long as these activities are closely related to the university mission and beneficial to the university and are not in conflict with the proper discharge of their duties and responsibilities in the public interest. This 30 working day time threshold does not apply to or affect service to activities conducted for university related governmental, university or non-profit boards, study sections, or committees, or required attendance for service in the United States armed forces. (See HOOP Policy 41 Military Leave.) Further guidance is provided in the Conflict of Interest and Outside Activities Decision Matrix for Faculty Activities. Additional days of outside consultative or advisory activities may be granted with prior, appropriate supervisory approval and prior approval of the respective school’s dean or dean’s designee or the President or the President’s designee. Information on the appropriate documentation of time and attendance is outlined in HOOP Policy 24 Time and Attendance Reporting.
3. Elective Offices
Employees who wish to engage in political activity that will interfere with the performance of their duties and responsibilities should voluntarily terminate employment. Being a candidate for an elective office, holding an elective public office, or directing the political campaign of a candidate for an elective public office are examples of political activities which may interfere with the performance of an employee’s duties. If the President finds the employee’s political activities interfere with the performance of his or her duties and responsibilities or finds the employee’s political activities do not comply with the requirements of this policy, the employee shall be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
4. Use of University Name and Resources
Employees who perform work in a private capacity must make it clear to those who employ them that the work is unofficial and that the name of the University of Texas System or the university is not in any way connected with the employee’s name, except when used to identify the employee as the author of work related to the employee’s academic or research area. Employees may not use university stationery or give any university building or department as a business address in connection with any work performed in a private capacity.
Additionally, employees may not accept personal compensation from private persons or corporations for tests, assays, chemical analyses, bacteriological examinations or other such work of a routine character that involves using property owned by the university, UT System, or any other University of Texas component institution unless advance permission is obtained from the President and provision has been made for compensation to the university, UT System, or to the appropriate University of Texas component institution.
5. Use of Professional Opinions for Advertising
Employees who give professional opinions must protect the university and UT System against the use of such opinions for advertising purposes. If the employee does work in a private capacity, the employee must make it clear to those who employ him or her that the work is unofficial and that the name of the university and UT System are not in any way to be connected with the employee’s name, except when used to identify the employee as the author of work related to the employee’s academic or research area.
C. Clinician Relationships with Industry
This Policy also addresses the interactions that clinicians have with industry that might occur as part of the duties and responsibilities assigned to their positions or during the course of training programs, to ensure to the fullest extent possible that the integrity of clinical decision making is not compromised by financial or other personal relationships with industry. The term “clinicians” refers to faculty members and trainees at all levels (i.e., students, interns, residents, fellows, post-doctoral trainees) in any patient care discipline, including specialties of medicine, dentistry, nursing, and allied health sciences. The term “industry” is defined as any for-profit entity or representative of such entity that develops, produces, markets, sells, or distributes any goods, services, or equipment related to patient care activities for use by the university or participates in a contractual relationship with the university.
Interactions with industry must be regulated and in some cases prohibited in order to avoid conflicts of interest as well as, to the extent possible, perceptions of such conflicts. Guidance is provided in the Conflict of Interest and Outside Activities Decision Matrix for Clinician Relationships with Industry. A summary of prohibited activities is provided below. If a particular activity is not listed, it is expected that clinicians will act appropriately to avoid real and potential conflicts, and will seek guidance when needed from their department chair or dean, or from the Office of Institutional Compliance.
- Clinicians may not accept gifts or promotional items from industry. An employee may not accept such items on behalf of a clinician. (See Matrix for guidance about promotional items of minimal value offered to clinicians at off-campus conferences.)
- Industry may not directly provide meals or food/beverage items for any on-campus event that is related to clinical activities or medical education. (See Matrix for industry sponsorship through unrestricted grants to the university.) Industry may not directly provide meals or food/beverage items for clinics, clinicians’ offices, or other areas related to patient care activities; however, industry may provide refreshments during scheduled appointments to orient clinicians to a specific product or device, as determined by each department’s policy.
- Industry may not give free drug, device, or product samples to individual clinicians. An employee may not accept such items on behalf of a clinician. Samples that have been appropriately received by the university, as determined by each department’s policy, may be distributed only to patients.
- Industry representatives are not allowed in patient care areas when patient care activities are occurring, except as required to orient personnel to a specific product or device. Industry promotional materials and product-specific advertisements may not be left in patient care areas. In addition, industry representatives may not interact directly with trainees solely for the purpose of promoting professional products or for distributing materials.
- Clinicians may not receive compensation for passive activities such as merely attending a conference or listening to a sales pitch.
- Participation in “ghost-writing” is prohibited (written material that is officially credited to someone other than the writer of the material).
- Clinicians and other employees with responsibilities related to the review or purchase of goods or services for use by the university or other contractual relationships with industry may not have any financial interest in any company that might benefit from the institutional decision.
D. Educational Efforts
Human Resources shall distribute this policy and its appendices to each new employee not later than the third business day after the date the person begins employment.
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