Movie fans might remember the scene in "Flashdance" when Jennifer Beals changed from her welder's gear into dance togs while en route to her second job. In a tough economy, many people find themselves making a quick change and heading from one job to the next just to make ends meet.

But could moonlighting put your job - or both jobs - at risk? Two Georgia state government attorneys recently found themselves under criticism for time they might have spent on one job while on the clock for the government.

Georgia State Attorneys Criticized for Moonlighting

Two attorneys working for the Georgia State Ethics Commission (Commission) came under fire for allegedly spending time with their private practice law firm while on the clock at their state job. One attorney, still an attorney for the Commission, was its Acting Executive Secretary. The other attorney left his job at the Commission several months ago to devote more time to the private law office run by the two attorneys.

The Georgia Inspector General issued a lengthy report of its investigation of the case. It claims the two attorneys met with clients and attended hearings, and used state computers, to do work for their own law office while on the clock for their government jobs. One of the attorneys responded the report was just "50 pages of fluff."

The current Executive Secretary of the Commission declined to comment on the report, noting that she and the other Commissioners would need time to review and discuss it. The report recommended clear rules regarding outside employment be put in place to avoid misunderstandings and stop real or perceived abuses.

Be Upfront with Both Employers

A "lesson learned" from the Georgia case is that it's important to understand and communicate with both employers (or with one employer, if your other job is working for yourself) about your time and effort commitments.

You may find information about outside jobs in an employee handbook or some other written or unwritten policy about moonlighting. Familiarize yourself with it as soon as possible. It's best to be upfront and open about your moonlighting work before starting work in any job.

Government vs. Private Employees

In general, government employees are forbidden from doing any other work at any time during their government work hours, and are strictly forbidden from using any state resources for other work. This can include computer research, long-distance phone calls, or using government vehicles. These rules will generally apply to all employers, unless you have gotten express advance permission otherwise.

In the private sector, it's not a good idea to work a second job that competes or conflicts with your employer. Working for one shipping business by day and for another by night will likely get you fired from at least one of those jobs.

Moonlighting for a business that is at odds with your day job - such as heading to your bartending job after a day as an alcohol rehab counselor - could get you fired or at least reprimanded, as your night job could detract from your reputation in your day job.

The Hazards of Fatigue

Some occupations, such as over-the-road truck driving, have strict rules about rest hours and "down time". Agencies regulating such industries recognize that fatigue can lead to dangerous situations.

Be cautious if your moonlighting job leaves you exhausted and prone to accidents in your day job, or vice versa. If you are in a job that requires extreme caution and meticulous attention, be sure that your moonlighting job won't interfere with your ability to concentrate.

Earning money on the side could backfire if you are placing your own job - or the health and safety of others - at risk by being overly fatigued.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • If I have a part-time job, also working for my employer's company or a related company, does it affect pay issues such as overtime?
  • Is there a conflict if my employers are competitors, but my jobs for each are different and aren't in direct conflict?
  • Is my full-time employer entitled to change my regular working hours at any time? Can my hours be changed to make it hard for me to work a second job?

Tagged as: Labor and Employment, Human Resources Law, night work, labor lawyer