Moonlighting: 4 Easy Tips to Avoid Conflicts
Working a secondary job (i.e. moonlighting) is not uncommon these days. Whether you moonlight to pursue a passion or to supplement your income, you should be careful that your new job is not at odds with your existing job. The case of Patterson v. The Bank of Nova Scotia highlights how moonlighting can be problematic.
Patterson worked with Scotiabank for 13 years as a Customer Service agent and Manager. Her family was involved in real estate development and they encouraged her to become a real estate agent. Patterson completed her real estate licensing requirements and joined Prudential Reality on a part-time basis. When Scotiabank learned of Patterson’s job with Prudential Realty, they gave her three choices: 1) resign from her position with Scotiabank; 2) find another position within Scotiabank that did not conflict with her role as a real estate agent; or 3) stay in her current position with Scotiabank and cease work as a real estate agent. Patterson refused the banks choices and was terminated for just cause.
The Court found that Patterson’s work as a real estate agent could result in a conflict of interest with Scotiabank, both in terms of time needed to serve her real estate clients and the nature of their needs (e.g. the need for a mortgage). The Court also found that Patterson was familiar with Scotiabank’s “Guidelines for Business Conduct”, which warned employees that their employment could be terminated for engaging in activities, which could create a conflict of interest with the bank. The “Guidelines for Business Conduct” also required employees to disclose to Scotiabank any outside business interest of a remunerative nature. Based on their analysis, the Court upheld Scotiabank’s just cause termination and Patterson was unable to receive compensation (i.e. a severance package) for her lost job at Scotiabank despite her 13-years of service.
If you would like to avoid Patterson’s misfortune, consider these 4 easy tips when seeking a second job:
- Review your employment contract and workplace policies. Some employment contracts and policies clearly state that employees must exclusively work and carry out business for their employer only. If your contract or policies require your exclusive attention, moonlighting may result in termination of your employment.
- Avoid real or potential conflicts of interest. Do not work in a similar or related job or industry. For example, if you are a Software Developer for a tech company and selling real estate on a part-time basis, your primary employer may be less concerned. But if you have started a new tech company, which creates software apps, your primary employer may view this as a conflict.
- Disclose the additional job(s) to your primary employer. It is important to operate under full disclosure and make your employer aware of any other jobs you might have. If your employer has full knowledge of your additional job and does nothing with this knowledge, they may be viewed as implicitly agreeing to your secondary job and prevented from terminating your employment for this reason in the future.
- Dedicate your full time and attention to your employer. Your employer is entitled to your total time, effort and attention while they are paying you. Therefore, if you have more than one job, you should keep your work activities separate: do not conduct work for your second job while you are at your primary job (and vice versa). Further, you should only use work assigned equipment (i.e. laptops, mobile phone, printer etc.) and supplies (i.e. papers, pens and other office supplies) for the job for which they have been assigned.
By following these four easy tips, you can pursue a second job without inadvertently making it your only job!