Can You Be Fired for Getting a Side Hustle?

by Maurie Backman | Published on Nov. 12, 2021

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If you're going to get a side gig, make sure it doesn't put your main job at risk.


Key points

  • Many people work side hustles to boost their income.
  • Before you get a side hustle, you'll need to make sure it doesn't violate your employer's policies.

There are plenty of good reasons to get yourself a side hustle on top of your main job. For one thing, if you're short in the savings department, working a second job could make it possible to boost your bank account balance and buy yourself more financial security.

Furthermore, if you're carrying a nagging balance on your credit cards, a side hustle could be your ticket to paying it off sooner. Plus, there's something to be said for having more money on hand for leisure, vacations, and everyday bills.

But before you rush out and get yourself a side hustle, you may need to consult your human resources department at work. In some cases, the wrong side hustle could put you at risk of losing your job.

Could your side hustle be a no-go?

Some companies don't care what their employees do outside of the office. But some companies have strict rules about taking on jobs on the side, and if your employer has such a policy in place, you'll need to understand its terms carefully.

It may be the case that your company prohibits employees from taking on a side hustle in the same field they work in full-time. For example, if you're a web designer, your employer might say that employees can't do web design work for other clients. The same might hold true if you work in accounting -- you may be barred from doing accounting work for another firm.

If you're wondering whether this is legal, unfortunately, the answer is yes. Companies are allowed to prohibit employees from doing work for competitors. And the definition of a competitor can be loosely interpreted. Furthermore, your company may have every right to bar you from doing the same type of work for another client that's not a direct competitor due to a potential conflict of interest.

Say you do web development for a bank, and you want to get a side gig doing web development for a marketing firm. You'd think there would be no conflict, since banks and marketing firms do different things. But your employer might argue that you'd be using skills you picked up on the job to service another client, and that it doesn't want that happening.

Now the good news is that for the most part, your employer can't or won't stop you from doing a side job that has nothing to do with your main line of work. If you do web development for a bank but want to pick up a side hustle walking dogs, that should be a non-issue.

That said, your employer may have a problem with your side hustle if it impacts your productivity. For example, if you spend time during the workday signing up for dog-walking gigs and that takes you away from responsibilities, that could become an issue.

Be careful when getting a side hustle

If you're not sure whether your side gig could put you at risk of losing your job, the best thing to do is ask. Talk to someone in your human resources department about the specifics of the work you're looking to do on the side, and ask for any clarity you need on your company's policy. And if that policy is more of a verbal one, ask for something in writing before you take on a side hustle.

While working a second job could benefit you in many ways, the last thing you want it to do is compromise your main job. And so it's important to go through the right channels to avoid any potential conflict.

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