Should businesses tolerate moonlighting?

Moonlighting is a term used to describe the act of working a second job outside of normal working hours. Federal government agencies prohibit employees from this practice, while many public organizations must refer to federal laws and agency regulations.

On the other hand, are employees of private companies permitted to moonlight? Generally speaking, yes. But this causes challenges to the employers when employees moonlight and their quality of work decline.

The Labor Department reports that about 7.6 million workers in the U.S. hold multiple jobs. Moonlighting is beneficial to employees in a few ways. First, it helps them make extra money when wages aren't enough. Second, it allows employees to pursue personal endeavors, which can improve their overall happiness and drive. Third, they might learn skills in the second job that can crossover to their first job.

Unfortunately, moonlighting has some negative effects as well. It can lead to misuse of an employer's resources, conflicts of interest, and distraction from job performance quality. To avoid these potential drawbacks, businesses should establish legally permissible policies -- not prevent employees from working other jobs, but to set expectations.

Moonlighting policies

A clear moonlighting policy establishes the standard without applying unnecessary force on employees, for example:

  • Set forth the conditions and expectations of their employment, such as overtime, shift coverage, and various demands and priorities.
  • Require employees to notify management when seeking additional employment opportunities.
  • Specify grounds for termination; for instance, if an employee's second job interferes with the duties of their current job, management will respond accordingly.

Proceed with caution

Some businesses choose to implement "no moonlighting" policies, although it is wise to exercise with caution. A policy cannot stop employees from moonlighting. If so, it becomes similar to a non-compete agreement, which California prohibits. Attempting to control what employees do outside of the workplace could lead to legal repercussions.

After instituting a moonlighting policy, consistency is important. Multiple employees might approach a business with moonlighting requests. Each individual should be asked the same set of questions, regardless of the circumstance. After that analysis, denying or accepting the request requires managerial discretion.

Since moonlighting policies impact both the business and its employees, it is wise to work with an attorney when creating policies that best fits the challenges at hand. Doing so will ensure employees are treated fairly, and the business is protected.

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