Perils of taking on a second job

February 8th, 2012 by

While many people are forced to work multiple jobs in this tough economy, employees should ensure that they properly consult with their primary employer before taking on any other unrelated work. The recent case of a bank employee, Marilyn Patterson, who worked as a real estate agent part time, serves as a warning for employees contemplating a similar move.

Ms. Patterson had been employed with a bank for 12 years, when she received a real estate license and began working part time with a local realty office. The bank became aware of this arrangement, and requested that Ms. Patterson discontinue her real estate activity or look for a new opportunity within the bank (one where no conflict with her current duties and her real estate activities would exist). After she refused these requests, Ms. Patterson was terminated without notice.  Though no other performance issues were claimed by the bank, the judge in Ms. Patterson’s wrongful dismissal suit was forced to dismiss the action. The bank had clearly outlined guidelines regarding secondary employment and conflicts of interest, to which Ms. Patterson had agreed to in her employment contract.

The bottom line is that, while not all secondary employment will be viewed as posing a conflict with one’s primary employment, employees considering such an arrangement should spend the time reviewing their company’s policy regarding conflicts of interest and exclusivity of employment. Employers are entitled to set reasonable standards, such as prohibiting bank employees (where access to mortgage authorization may exist) from working as realtors. In light of Ms. Patterson’s case, conflicts that are obvious are likely to be upheld by the courts.

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