Dear Dharma,

I am a single person and work full time for a private health care firm. Like everyone in this economy, I am struggling to keep ahead of my bills so I also work as a casual employee at another private firm. The firms are not in direct competition with each other but are in the same general scope of practice. Both companies are non-union.

I have signed confidentiality agreements with both firms (even if I had not I am a professional and would never discuss one company’s strategy or pricing with the other).

I pick up about 3 shifts a month and the extra pay is keeping me afloat and allowing me to set aside a (very) little bit of money toward retirement.

My boss recently found out that I am working a second job and she has asked me to quit as she views them as “The Competition”.  I really need the extra income – does my boss have any right to ask this of me? I have not signed any documents with an exclusivity clause but I can’t afford to jeopardize my main source of income!

Wage Slave

Dear Slave,

When I first read this, I was like aaaack!  Lawyer stuff!  After reading it a second time and focusing in on your actual question along with your closing line, I realized you answered your own question.  You just don’t like the answer, and I don’t blame you.

Whether or not your full time employer has the right to ask you to quit the part time job is not going to be what saves you.  Bottom line is they view the other firm as competition and they are going to get the final say on this one.  Should you decide to keep working at the secondary job you will most definitely be putting your main source of income in jeopardy, the very thing you said you can’t afford to do.

In the end, it won’t matter if they are right or wrong – fired is fired.  Should that happen, you would need to assess if going the legal route was worth it, but that’s another question for another day.

I appreciate that you need the income to keep things afloat… is there a reason you can’t find another part time job in an unrelated industry?  Lots of people have a second job, so it seems like this should be a possibility for you.

I can already hear you saying that other jobs won’t pay as much as this part time job, being a private firm in the health industry and all… but $x extra dollars is better than $0 extra dollars, non?  Maybe instead of picking up 3 extra shifts a month, you pick up 5 somewhere else and it all levels out.

I just think if you focus on whether or not they have the right to fire you (and I truly do not have that answer), you are going to end up on the losing side of this equation.  I think finding a way to get in front of it and taking a positive action is better than becoming a victim of the situation.

If any of Dharma’s readers are savvier on the whole labour relations thing, please feel to offer additional advice to Slave.



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Categories: Bosses, Work


  • shelly p says:

    It does seem if your boss thinks you are working for the competition it is going to create a problem for you. Chances are if you continue working for the second employer, you will jeopardize your full time position, and they will be able to make that stick based on the conflict of interest. You may want to check with a lawyer. In the end though, Dharma is right – fired is fired.

  • Karl says:

    This is the problem with our “unions are bad” society. ALL of the power resides with the company, and the government is happy to keep it that way, who do you think pays the most to the parties in elections? Big Business baby!

    you are totally right, it doesn’t matter if the company legally can’t require her to quit, they have made the request, and the answer is either quit or be fired, and then see you in court. Wasn’t there another question about working and loyalty a while ago? Seems to me it all comes back to this: a company will act in it’s own best interest, no matter how the people involved feel personally.

Whether you agree with Dharma or think she missed the mark on this one, leave a Comment!

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