Legal Brief: What should I do if I am asked by a vendor to provide a testimonial for a product used in our office?
“Legal Briefs” appears in e-Inside monthly to keep faculty and staff informed of legal issues and their implications. Content is provided by the Office of University Counsel, whose mission is to ensure high-quality legal services to Kent State University in a timely, cost-effective manner, to reduce litigation and to ensure legal compliance. An archive of Legal Briefs is available online.
There are times when a vendor of a product, software or other item used by Kent State University will ask for an endorsement or testimonial for the product. The request is usually made to a university employee familiar with the product or item. In making this request, the vendor will often ask the employee to sign a release statement, which allows the vendor to use the employee’s name, photo and testimonial.
If you receive such a request, you should first talk with your supervisor to make sure he/she approves of the testimonial. If approval is given from the supervisor, you should then contact the Office of University Counsel at 330-672-2982.
The format of most release forms implies that the employee has received something of value in return for the testimonial, which is against the state of Ohio’s ethic rules. The University Counsel’s office will work with the vendor, the employee and the employee’s supervisor to make sure the release clearly states that the employee is not receiving any type of compensation for his/her endorsement of a product. The employee will then be in a position to make the endorsement and comply with the state ethics rules. The Office of the Ohio Ethics Commission has approved this process.
Another area of concern related to ethics is the matter of employees receiving gifts and favors from a vendor. Kent State has an online training course, Workplace Ethics, to help employees know how to respond to a variety of situations related to ethics. This interactive course can be accessed by going to www.kent.edu/hr/register , then click, “online courses” and search for Workplace Ethics.
For questions related to product testimonials, contact Jim Watson, associate university counsel, at 330-672-2982 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.