Moonlighting… Is Your Job Your ‘One and Only?’

Monitoring or limiting employee activities outside the workplace can be awfully slippery slope. Yet there are those businesses who still feel compelled to restrict or prohibit their employees from having a second job. If you, as an employer, feel the need to head down this path, you might rethink your position on some of the more common arguments for such policies.

Moonlighting detracts from one’s overall job performance

Yes it might. So might volunteer roles, playing on the company softball team, personal problems, coaching kid’s sports, hobbies, video gaming addictions, and poor overall personal health. There is no end to the circumstances which can and will influence employee performance on the job.

The key here is that an employer is able to articulate and expect consistently high levels of job performance, and hold everyone accountable for doing so. Trying to influence or limit one’s extracurricular activities that may detract from job performance is naïve.

Balancing schedules is just too complicated

As the employer, you’re not supposed to ‘balance schedules.’ Your employees are supposed to work the schedules they agreed to when they accepted employment with you, even if that meant schedules were ‘variable and unpredictable.’ Have you affectively communicate the scheduling requirements of each job? In fact, accommodating schedules has the potential of raising more problems related to favoritism and disparate treatment than just saying ‘no.’

Moonlighting demonstrates a lack of employee commitment

Really? If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all seen people emotionally quit their job at noon and remain on the payroll ‘til five. Someone taking on a second job just to remain employed in their day job is, in fact, a pretty strong statement of employee commitment. Employee commitment is a consequence of leadership, and not something you should expect just because you think you’re paying somebody for it.

Moonlighting heightens the risk of passing on our company secrets

Yes, it might. However there are much more specific and deliberate policies that should be developed if a person functions in a job where their access to information is sensitive. Instead, consider developing policies associated with confidentiality, conflict of interest, non-compete agreements and other related terms or agreements that specifically address such acts both during and after employment with your firm.

It is not illegal for an employer to prohibit their employees from having second jobs. Employers are entitled to develop policies and other terms of employment that, within limits, regulate their employees outside activities while employed. By accepting employment under such terms, an employee has agreed to abide by such conditions.

Here’s the caveat. Employers who find it necessary to aggressively monitor their employees’ outside activities generally produce an employment culture lacking in trust and reasonableness. Moonlighting policies are also generally created because some incident got out of hand, rather than managing through a difficult performance issue on a case-by-case basis. When it comes to employment policies, ‘less is more.’ Make business decisions because they are the right decision to make, not because of some ‘policy.’ By demonstrating good faith and trust in the employment practices by which you live, you have the right to expect the same in return.


Michael Tracy is owner and managing principal of OMNI Employment Management Services, L.L.C., located in Overland Park, KS. OMNI is a human resources consulting firm providing comprehensive human resources services and support to small and medium-size companies throughout the region.