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What Is Moonlighting and How to Determine if You Should Implement a Work Policy

Some employees need to work more than one job in order to meet their financial obligations. While you may respect your employee’s desire to commit to more than one position, there are some situations in which moonlighting can negatively impact your company. Understanding what your rights are as an employer when it comes to moonlighting can help you better manage employees working multiple jobs.

Learn what moonlighting is, review examples of moonlighting, understand when you need to establish a moonlighting policy, assess the differences between non-compete policies and moonlighting policies and read answers to frequently asked questions about moonlighting employees.

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What is employee moonlighting?

Employee moonlighting is a situation in which an employee works more than one job. Usually, the moonlighting employee has one full-time job and one part-time job, though some use the term to refer to any situation in which a person works for more than one company. Most moonlighting situations that may require an employer to develop a moonlighting policy occur when the moonlighting employee has a “primary,” usually full-time position, and a “secondary,” or part-time position.

Related:Contracting Independent Workers: What Is a Contractor?

Examples of moonlighting

Moonlighting can take many forms. Consider these examples of employee moonlighting to help you determine if any of your employees are moonlighters:

  1. Pat works full time for your company in the customer service department, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Pat teaches youth ballet classes at a local dance studio from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  2. Jamie works as a teacher at your middle school. On Friday nights and on Saturdays and Sundays, they wait tables at a local restaurant.
  3. Ryan works as a salesman at your business full-time. Four days a week, they work as a telemarketer from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Considerations for whether you need an employee moonlighting policy

Most employee moonlighting situations are fine for the employee and their employers. There are some situations, though, that don’t work and may require you to implement a moonlighting policy for your business. Consider these circumstances when deciding whether you need a policy for moonlighting employees:

  • Fatigue:Depending on the hours of the employee’s second job and the nature of the work, they may be too tired to perform their job duties for your business.
  • Hours:For hourly workers in particular, their second job may limit the number of hours they’re available to work for your organization.
  • Distraction:Some employees may get distracted while working for you by tasks associated with their other position, reducing their on-the-job productivity.
  • Conflict of interest:In some cases, the employee’s second job could be a conflict of interest for your company.

Should you notice these factors reducing moonlighting employees’ work performance and productivity, it’s time to consider implementing a moonlighting policy. Strong moonlighting policies focus on defining your expectations for employees while working for your company rather than limiting what they can do outside of work. For example, a term in your moonlighting policy might be that employees must be available to work during specific hours every week.

Non-compete policies vs. moonlighting policies

Non-compete policies or agreements may share some similarities with moonlighting policies, but overall they’re different documents.

Non-compete policies

Non-compete policies are legal documents, signed by both the employee and the employer, that prohibit the employee from working with or providing information to their employer’s competitors. Non-compete policies or agreements are most common for senior company leaders or others in positions of power who may have important internal knowledge about the company rather than entry or mid-level employees.

Moonlighting policies

Moonlighting policies are usually not separate signed agreements between the employee and employer, but rather part of the company’s collection of employment policies, usually contained in the employee handbook. Moonlighting policies routinely describe the circumstances in which an employee may or may not have a secondary job, whether the employee needs to seek approval before taking a second job and specific industries, companies or roles in which the employee cannot hold a second job.

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Frequently asked questions about moonlighting

Does an employee have to tell you they're moonlighting?

It depends. Your employees may or may not need to tell you they have another job depending on your moonlighting policy. If you don’t have a moonlighting policy in place for your company, then your employees are not obligated to tell you about any additional positions. If you have a moonlighting policy that explicitly states that you require employees to seek approval before starting a second job, then your employees must let you know if they engage in another job.

Can an employer stop an employee from moonlighting?

The answer depends on whether you have a moonlighting policy in place. If you don’t have a moonlighting policy or you do have a moonlighting policy and your employee’s work performance at your company is unaffected by their second job, you don’t have any recourse to keep them from working somewhere else. If you have a moonlighting policy that states your employees must meet certain standards to continue employment with your company, and the moonlighting employee does not meet those standards, then you can ask the employee to leave their second job.

Is moonlighting ethical?

In most cases, moonlighting isn’t an ethical concern. Generally, an individual working more than one job can do so successfully with no negative consequences for themselves or the business. Some cases can present an ethical issue, however. Most commonly, this happens when an employee performs a similar job or role for competing companies. This situation can be stressful for the employee and cause proprietary information breeches for one or both companies.

Moonlighting is a common practice and one that many employees perform with no negative consequences for themselves or their employers. If you’re concerned that second jobs are impacting your employees’ work performance, then it may be in your best interest to implement a moonlighting policy.

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