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Can I Get Fired for Having a Second Job? | It Depends

Many people have no choice but to work a second job in order to make ends meet and provide for their families. Wondering about the risks associated with “moonlighting” is common and definitely something to be worried about. Having had numerous employees, I can give you an answer from the viewpoint of an employer.

In some states, you can be fired for having a second job or “moonlighting” anytime for almost any reason. Other states require companies to have reasonable cause. The determining factors include whether or not you are an at-will employee and the company policy of your primary employment.

The rest of the article will cover the factors that determine whether or not having a second job is something that your current employer might frown upon and potentially seek to get rid of you for it.

Who Can Get Fired for Having a Second Job?

Without an employment contract, you are considered an at-will employee. Unfortunately, at-will employees can be fired at any time for any legal reason. The exception is that employers cannot fire you in retaliation for reporting an unsafe work environment.

Other states have provisions in place that prevent employers from dismissing employees for things done legally off the clock. These provisions vary in strength from state to state. For example, Montana prohibits employers from firing employees without cause. Around 3/4 of all workers in the United States are under at-will employment.

Many states apply these protections more broadly than others. If you live in a state without these types of protections, you could be fired for working a second job.

  • In some states, the law only protects employees from being fired for using legal products like alcohol or tobacco.
  • If the state you are residing in has a broad off-duty conduct law, you might be safe from being fired for having a second job. This assumes that you are not working for a competitor, or the second job does not cause problems for your first job.

Can My Employer Stop Me From Having a Second Job?

In some cases, your employer could have the authority to prevent you from working a second job. This might not only include working for another person or company but even for yourself. That’s right. You could even be fired for being an entrepreneur on the side.

The sad reality is that when you do not have an employment contract inhibiting your employer’s right, you can be fired for working a second or starting your own company.

Also, check your contract. If you signed paperwork that included a moonlight clause, you could be held liable by the primary company for taking on a second job that violates the agreed-upon clause. This means your primary employer could take legal action to stop you from accepting another job.

Why Employers Care About Moonlighting

Employers typically only care about moonlighting in terms of how it affects their bottom line. But they also do it for very practical reasons. Companies do not relish replacing employees or the potentially exorbitant costs and time it takes to train new people to get them up to speed.

There are three main areas that concern employers about employees moonlighting:

1. Working in a Similar Field

Employers get concerned when you take a second job in the same field. They worry your purposely or inadvertently spilling proprietary information to their competitors. This conflict of interest can cause the company to lose clients or vendors if the other company you work for tries to undercut them.

Even working for yourself in the same field can pose a problem; especially, if you draw your clients from the company.

2. Compromised Performance

Employers want focused and motivated employees. They do not want tired employees who stumble into their office after working too many hours.

A second job can lead employees to underperform in their day to day tasks. This can influence a companies productivity rate. A loss in productivity can affect the company’s coffers.

3. Co-Opting Company Resources

Employers provide their employees with physical resources like a company car, a computer, or a work phone. They pay for these resources and expect them to aid you in conducting business for them. They don’t want to use their resources to finance someone else’s projects. In the same vein, they do not want employees to take office hours to perform tasks for a different company.

Do I Have to Tell My Employer About a Second Job?

You do not have to tell an employer about a second job unless you have signed a non-compete contract or paperwork with a specific moonlighting clause.

Some companies do not allow their employees to accept additional work, while others ask their employees to report a second job. The latter allows the primary company a chance to vet potential employers to make sure there are no conflicts of interest. They usually have the discretion to decide whether you can accept the second work offer.

Some states do not allow non-compete clauses. California is one of them, but many states do not have this protection for workers. Not to mention, it does not stop companies from firing you for a whole host of other reasons that could stem from you holding a side job with a competing company.

Other states enforce non-compete clauses that limit your ability to accept a position with a company in a similar area of expertise.

How to Tell Employer You Have a Second Job

Depending on your office climate, you can tell your boss informally over coffee about your second job or formally by scheduling a few minutes to convey the news. This does not have to be a daunting task. Keep it simple and be direct.

  • Be clear about your intentions- Explain what your second job entails. Let them know what you are doing and with whom. If you have a schedule for your other job, you can bring this when you speak to your boss. The schedule could be used as a tool to show how your new job will not impact your current job. If there is a potential for your schedules to clash, it’s best to introduce the topic right away so alterations can be made.
  • Let them know you are committed- You want to make sure your employer knows that they are your priority. Make sure they know that you’re still committed to your job, and your productivity will not decline. Addressing any of their concerns is the best way to maintain a cordial and transparent relationship with your employer.

How to Hide a Second Job From Your Employer (and Should You?)

Usually, an employer finds about an employee’s second job directly from their employee. But, sometimes, it is discovered through word of mouth. This can make for an uncomfortable conversation with your boss if he or she thinks you were intentionally hiding the information from them.

If you choose not to disclose this information or provide the company as a reference for the second job, just make sure you understand the consequences. Make sure you are not violating company policies, a contract, or any law.

If you really want to hide your second job, you need to avoid the common situations that get people discovered. Here are a few ways you could be found out:

  • If you show up to work late or tired, your employer may realize you have been moonlighting.
  • You may be found out if someone sees you at your other work and informs the boss.
  • You are more likely to get discovered if you are working out in an open environment instead of being tucked away in some back room.
  • If your job is online, you could have a hard time covering your digital footprint; especially, if you run a blog or vlog. These things can generally be found by searching your name on google.

Ultimately, it usually isn’t worth it to try and hide secondary employment. If you really need the money, just go to your boss and explain your situation. Who knows, you may get lucky and be given a raise. Stranger things have happened.

The worst-case scenario is that you get told not to do it. If this happens, at least you know where you stand and can make plans accordingly. But if you try to hide a second job and your employer finds out that you have been lying to them, it can cause a loss of trust and damage your working relationship.

Bottom Line

Working two jobs is not easy. Trust me, I know. I have worked as many as three jobs simultaneously, and it can really take a toll on you. Add in the fact that one company can get jealous of the other, and it’s no fun at all.

The good news is that most companies are actually more reasonable than you might think. This is especially true if you are a hard worker.

Most of the time, being straightforward with your boss about your second job is the best approach. After all, you will not have to deal with the anxiety and uncertainty of when or if your employer will discover your side hustle.

I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for reading!

For more, check out Can You Pay a 1099 Contractor Hourly? | What You Need To Know.