Section 2. Ethics, Fraud, and Confidentiality

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2.01 As a Harris County employee, you must maintain the highest standards of ethical behavior, including adhering to the Harris County Code of Conduct. Always act with honesty and integrity, respect, confidentiality, and fairness in the execution of your job.

2.02 Be professional in the workplace and any time or place you are engaged in work-related activities. Protect the County’s assets and its reputation through professional and personal conduct and avoid circumstances that create an appearance of impropriety.

2.03 Fraudulent behavior is strictly prohibited. Fraud is broadly defined and may include any type of intentional deception for the purpose of personal or business gain or damage to an individual or organization.

Examples of fraudulent behavior include:
• Accepting compensation for speaking engagement connected with your Harris County position or regarding information you received due to your Harris County position.
• Lying on an employment application or falsifying records.
• Providing false receipts for mileage or travel reimbursement.

You must be a good steward of the resources entrusted to you and exercise due diligence to prevent and detect criminal conduct and non-compliance with laws and policies. Fraud, waste, abuse, or non-compliance must be reported to an appropriate supervisor, manager, or to the Harris County Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline identified below. Engaging in acts of fraud may result in disciplinary action or civil or criminal liability.

2.04 Harris County is the custodian of many types of information, including information that is confidential and private. If you have access to such information, be familiar with and comply with all applicable laws pertaining to access, use, protection, and disclosure of the information.

2.05 As a Harris County employee, you must avoid any activity that creates a real or apparent conflict of interest. Conflicts may exist in any relationship where the County’s best interests may be different from an official’s or an employee’s best interests. Conflicts of interests may also arise in situations where an official or employee employs immediate family members or has a financial or other interest in or a tangible personal benefit from a party considered for a contract or procurement.

2.06 Department Heads are responsible for overseeing their employees and ensuring compliance with these standards, including:
a. Conducting appropriate post-offer background checks on applicants to minimize the risk that employees will commit fraud or other illegal acts in the performance of their duties in accordance with the Fair Chance Policy in Section 3; and
b. Effectively communicating these ethical standards to all employees and allowing employees to participate in periodic ethics training, whether provided within the department or through HRRM Career Development (which offers video and online ethics training available 24-7 and live ethics training provided quarterly as well as at each new employee orientation).
c. Department Heads may require employees to request approval for second employment or extra-duty jobs to ensure that it does not present a conflict of interest, appearance of conflict, or interference with County employment.

2.07 Any employee who believes that fraud, waste or abuse has occurred or is occurring in violation of the Harris County Code of Conduct should report the facts or circumstances giving rise to this belief as follows:
 A report of fraud, waste or abuse should be submitted to the Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Hotline Number: (866) 556-8181 or via the website at
 A report of fraud, waste or abuse should be made to the reporting service as promptly as possible, but not later than thirty (30) days after the reporting party becomes aware of the facts or circumstances that appear to violate the Harris County Code of Conduct.

2.08 Employees who report suspected fraud, waste or abuse can do so without fear of retaliation. Retaliating against any employee for reporting suspected ethical violations or fraud is strictly prohibited. All reports will be promptly and thoroughly investigated. The investigation may include individual interviews with parties involved and any witnesses to the alleged conduct. Employees must cooperate in all investigations. Department Heads will be notified of findings.

2.09 Department Heads are responsible for administering appropriate discipline to any employees found to have committed an ethical violation to prevent similar offenses in the future. The appropriate discipline should be based on all the facts and circumstances surrounding the situation and may range from an oral or written warning, re-training, suspension, demotion or transfer, up to immediate dismissal.

2.10 Ask your supervisor if you have questions about the Harris County Code of Conduct, ethics or confidentiality.

It is the County’s policy to make employment decisions on the basis of individual merit and avoid any appearance of nepotism in making those decisions.

2.011 Public Officials (identified as applied in Texas Gov’t Code § 573.041) are prohibited from appointing or hiring a person related to the official within the third degree by consanguinity (blood) or the second degree by affinity (marriage).
 Consanguinity are individuals related by blood to the following degrees:
• First degree – parent or child (including adopted children)
• Second degree – grandparent, grandchild, sibling
• Third degree – great grandparent, great grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew
 Affinity are individuals related by marriage to the following degrees:
• First degree – spouse, son in-law or daughter in-law, stepchild, or parent in- law
• Second degree – spouse’s sibling, sibling’s spouse, spouse’s grandparent, spouse’s grandchild

2.012 Except as otherwise required by law, Department Heads have discretion to allow relatives to work in the same department, as long as there are no business or job-related conflicts of interests. However, Department Heads should be cognizant of the questions of perceived fairness and impartiality that may arise in such cases. In circumstances where relatives are working together, the following should be followed to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interests:
• Employee should not be, directly or indirectly, involved in employment-related decisions regarding a family member. This includes hiring, supervision, appointment, removal, or disciplinary actions.
• Employee should not evaluate or audit the work of a family member.
• Employee should not approve of payment, invoices, or work for family members.

2.013 Employees must immediately disclose to their manager or Human Resources department any familial relationships, not limited to those identified above, that may result in an actual or perceived conflict of interest so that the matter may be evaluated and addressed accordingly.

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