Can Your Employer Bar You From Taking on a Side Hustle?

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  • A side hustle is a great way to boost your income and skills.
  • Some companies have rules in place about the work employees can and cannot do on the side.

Your employer may not love the idea of you working on the side. But does your company have the right to tell you that's not an option?

These days, the gig economy is booming, and a lot of people are going out and getting themselves a side hustle. If you're thinking of going this route, you should know that your second gig could be your ticket to meeting financial goals, whether it's paying off credit cards, buying a house, or saving up to purchase a car.

Now often, you'll land in a position where you can take on whatever side hustle you want as long as it doesn't interfere with your main job. But there are some companies that bar employees from taking on side gigs altogether. And if you're wondering if that's legal, the answer may be an unfortunate yes.

When a side hustle is off the table

It's illegal for a company to fire someone on the basis of race, gender, religion, or other such protected classes. But most employee contracts are signed on an at-will basis, which means a company can fire a worker for any reason other than the aforementioned illegal ones. And so if your employer decides that you can't take on a side hustle and you go out and get one anyway, that could be grounds for termination.

That said, many companies won't put a blanket ban on side hustles. Rather, they'll restrict the type of work you're able to do on the side.

It's not totally unreasonable for a company to dictate that you can't do side hustle work for a competitor within your current field. So, let's say you work in marketing, but you want to take on some marketing side gigs to boost your income. Your employer could argue that doing the same type of work for a competing company represents a conflict of interest. Your employer could also argue that you'd be using skills it helped you develop to benefit another company.

On the other hand, let's say you work in marketing but you want to take on a side hustle as a math tutor because you happen to be really good at it. Chances are, that's not the sort of gig your employer will mind or prohibit you from taking on.

What to do if your employer says you can't have a side hustle

Most companies don't put a general ban on side hustles. Rather, they may put a ban on doing the same kind of work you're doing for them. But if your employer says no to side hustles across the board, it could pay to sit down with your manager or HR representative, discuss your company's concerns, and see if a solution can be reached.

It may be that your employer is worried that your side hustle will impact your productivity. After all, if you take on a second job that has you working until midnight every night, you might show up to your main job exhausted, which could mean your work becomes less efficient. In that case, you could try suggesting a trial period. If you can prove that you're able to juggle your main job and a second one without negatively affecting your productivity, then your employer might change its tune.

Ultimately, though, you may decide that working for a company that bars side hustles just doesn't work for you. It's one thing to be told you can't do the same work you do all day for a competitor. But a company really shouldn't have a problem with an accountant taking on a dog-walking job or an IT person teaching guitar on the weekends. And an employer that's so inflexible is one you may not want to work for.

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