Are you currently working or considering a 2nd job because you feel like you are not making enough money? If so, you’ve probably wondered can I get fired for having a 2nd job?
Here’s what I know, having hired thousands over the years:
Employees in at-will states can be fired at any time for any legal reason. However, most employers won’t prohibit employees from working a 2nd job as long as it’s not for a competitor and as long as it doesn’t affect your availability or work performance.
But there’s a lot more to know about working a 2nd job and what an employer can legally do about it. And those of you living in at-will states, have other things to consider, which we’ll get into below.
So let’s keep going.
Moonlighting is relatively common, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.9% of workers hold multiple jobs.
Moonlighting is a term used to refer to holding a second job outside of normal working hours. Moonlighting policies vary by employer, but may require disclosure and approval of secondary employment.
You may be considering moonlighting, but have some questions:
- Can your employer prevent you from getting a second job?
- Can you get fired if you get a second job?
- Why would your employer even care?
Don’t worry, all of these questions are going to be answered. Just keep reading!
How can you spot moonlighting as a business owner?
— Reveal PI (@RevealPI) June 12, 2019
Do I have to tell my employer about a second job?
Employers’ reactions to moonlighting can vary widely.
Some employers couldn’t care less, as long as it’s not interfering with job performance or in conflict with their values, and you’re not working with a competitor. Some employers are okay with moonlighting but have policies that require the disclosure and approval of outside employment.
Other employers strictly prohibit moonlighting. If you work for an employer that prohibits moonlighting, and you get a second job, you can get fired.
So it’s important to communicate with your employer and read the employee handbook so that you are familiar with company policy.
If moonlighting isn’t strictly prohibited, talk to your employer about your desire to get a second job.
Strictly speaking, if moonlighting isn’t prohibited, you don’t have to tell your employer about a second job, provided that the policy doesn’t require disclosure and/or approval.
However, it’s always best to be honest with your employer.
It says a lot about not only your work ethic but your integrity, too. And who knows, if you are a valuable employee, and are just looking to make a little extra money, you may even get offered a raise or given more hours.
— DXC Workplace (@DXCworkplace) January 11, 2020
What is the moonlighting employment law?
While there isn’t a specific law prohibiting moonlighting, it can be governed by the policies of your employer.
Public employees may be subject to federal laws and agency regulations, depending on the position and classification.
Even then, the federal laws don’t necessarily prohibit moonlighting, they prohibit taking on second jobs that could prove unethical in that it causes a conflict of interest, whether it’s the source of income or the type of work that the job entails.
If your company has a policy prohibiting moonlighting, it should be well documented in the company handbook and/or your employment contract or agreement. If you are unsure of the company policy, ask.
I list out the states below that fall into the at-will territory.
However, in a recent article, I got much deeper into at-will laws, how they vary from state to state, and what they mean for both employees and employers. I even get into wrongful termination, what that means, and what to do about it, if it happens to you.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
Pallister has senior bureaucrat remit his earnings from moonlighting for Tory MP campaign, but keeps job. Province’s rules forbid outside employment and partisan roles https://t.co/2bqkSfCocv by @jsrutgers pic.twitter.com/COS5DxCdJD
— Dylan Robertson (@withfilesfrom) June 12, 2020
Can an employer prohibit moonlighting?
Not only can they prohibit moonlighting, but they can fire you if they find out you are working a second job if you are violating any written policies or agreements.
And if that 2nd job appears to violate the company’s trust or propriety ideas, not only could you get fired, but you could get sued.
So, not only can they prohibit moonlighting, but they can prohibit the use of company time and resources as it relates to secondary jobs and activities.
It’s also important to know if you are an “at-will” employee.
An at-will employee can be fired at any time, for any reason, with a few exceptions that would violate federal employment law, like discrimination. Chances are that you are an “at-will” employee, as all states recognize at-will employment, with a few states that have limitations in place, in addition to federal law.
Many states have various limitations and restrictions as it pertains to at-will employment. If you live in one of the states listed, you should refer to those laws and regulations as it relates to employee’s rights.
Here are all of the at-will states:
Surreal Law & Order scene featuring lawyer Elaine Stritch questioning Felicity Huffman, a homemaker moonlighting as a prostitute who killed a cop. pic.twitter.com/1KiasrFelX
— Jordan Zakarin (@jordanzakarin) June 21, 2021
Is it illegal to work two jobs at once?
No, it’s not illegal to work two jobs.
But it could violate your employment contract and/or company policy, particularly if it presents a conflict of interest. What is illegal, however, is stealing trade secrets and customers.
Even if you are not stealing trade secrets or customers, if your second job is in the same field as your primary job, it could appear that you are working for a competitor, and therefore, sharing trade secrets.
In fact, the 2nd job may have hired you specifically hoping they would learn some insider secrets about their competition.
So, be very careful about who you choose to work for at your second job to avoid any perceived conflicts of interest.
Lastly, as we’ll get into more below, also make sure your employer doesn’t prohibit 2nd jobs or have restrictions you should know about before accepting a 2nd job.
Ultimately, there are a lot of reasons an employer can fire an employee.
But one that might surprise you is gossiping.
We all know someone who loves gossip! But if that’s you, make sure you check out my recent article that breaks down how you could actually get fired for that.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
— Moonlighting (@Moonlighting) June 26, 2016
Why would employers care if I have a 2nd job?
Think of it this way; employers are investing in their employees, and they want them to be on their A-game.
If you’re working a second job, you are likely to get burned out and let your work quality slip. Then all of a sudden, your employer is paying the same amount of money for sub-par work.
It could also be a conflict of interest.
Employers don’t want their employees working for competitors, directly or indirectly. Even if you are not selling trade secrets or stealing customers, it could appear that you are. As a result, they are going to want to know what kind of work you are doing, and who you’re doing it for, so they can decide whether it could be detrimental to their business.
When I worked for Whole Foods Market, they didn’t prohibit employees from working a second job.
Specifically, the employee handbook at that time stated: “We have no objections to any Team Member holding another job as long as he or she can effectively meet the performance standards for their position at Whole Foods Market.”
The GIG (general information guide) also clarified that it was expected that a 2nd job’s schedule should be coordinated around the employee’s Whole Foods schedule and not the other way around.
However, Whole Foods was very clear about working for competitors or anyone where a conflict of interest could exist. There, the GIG states that they prohibit all employees from working for “a direct competitor, vendor, supplier”.
This may not seem like a big deal if you are waiting tables at your 1st or 2nd job.
But if you work in software, for example, and you take on another software development job, the waters can get muddied when it comes to ideas and who those ideas actually belong to.
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Other reasons an employer might not want you working a 2nd job
Let’s also not forget the loyalty aspect.
Your employer most likely spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to get you properly trained and to make sure you have the resources you need to perform your job for them. If you are using that training and resources at a second job, your employer could feel betrayed or annoyed.
Also, as you saw in my example above from my Whole Foods days, their GIG book clearly states “as long as he or she can effectively meet the performance standards”.
That means they won’t fire you for working a 2nd job. But they can fire you if your performance and overall work quality go down.
But I get it!
There have been times in my life where I’ve worked 2 jobs (like writing this blog). Sometimes it’s necessary to put food on the table. So if you are financially forced to have 2 jobs, just take steps to make sure you’re able to give your best performance to both; especially to your primary employer.
Lastly, take into consideration, too, that moonlighting can be a hassle.
You’ll have another job to commute to, less free time, less time with friends, and tax repercussions. As a result, your mental health and physical health could decline.
If you are not taking care of yourself, both your primary job and your secondary job could suffer, and then you could get fired from both because you are performing subpar work.
Did I cover all you wanted to know about second jobs and whether it’s legal for an employer to fire you for having one?
Moonlighting is not uncommon, especially when you are in your younger years and just getting started looking for a career.
However, it can be really challenging not only from an employer/employee aspect but from a mental and physical health aspect as well. You should think about whether you really need to get a second job.
If you do decide to get a second job, you should talk to your primary employer and make sure company policy doesn’t prohibit moonlighting.
If moonlighting isn’t prohibited, choose a second job that is vastly different from your primary one, just to prevent any chance of giving the impression that something nefarious is going on.
Of course, a 2nd job isn’t the only thing that could potentially land you in hot water with your employer.
In a recent article, I break down how even being sick could potentially get you fired. So just click that link to read it on my site.
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