Legal to work multiple jobs

Yes! It’s Legal To Work Multiple Remote Jobs

Got FOMO from making 2-3x income with multiple remote jobs? Wondering if it’s legal to work multiple remote jobs? No more scaremongering. I’m here to tell you it’s legal and here’s why.

What does at-will employment mean?

First, if you live in the United States, at-will employment is the law. This means it’s a free market between employees and employers, so it’s legal to work multiple remote jobs. But watch out for the tax consequences!

UPDATED 8/30/2021: For UK and Canada, a notice period for termination is required by both employees and employers, and is typically spelled out in the employment contract. Thanks to our diligent readers who noted the discrepancy. While it’s technically legal to work two jobs at once in the UK and Canada, do consult a lawyer in your country and review your employment contracts to understand the legal risks.

Back to the United States. So if you live in California, your remote jobs are presumed at-will employment. Don’t live in California? You’ll need to do some research on your own or consult a labor lawyer. BONUS: California has one of the most pro-labor employment laws. And why employers don’t prohibit a second job or overtly terminate an employee due to a second job. You can learn about California’s Labor Code §96(k) or read this law firm’s blog advising employers on moonlighting policy. The bottom line is we live in a free agent economy — it’s legal to work multiple remote jobs and sell your skills to multiple bidders.

The Labor Commissioner and his or her deputies and representatives authorized by him or her in writing shall, upon the filing of a claim therefor by an employee, or an employee representative authorized in writing by an employee, with the Labor Commissioner, take assignments of:

(k) Claims for loss of wages as the result of demotion, suspension, or discharge from employment for lawful conduct occurring during nonworking hours away from the employer’s premises.

California Labor Code Section 96 (k)

Can you get fired from legally working multiple remote jobs?

The short answer is yes due to at-will employment. But this is a cop-out answer. The truth is you can get fired anytime whether you work one or multiple remote jobs. Here at Overemployed, we argue you should work multiple remote jobs precisely because of at-will employment. There’s no implied lifetime employment anymore, not even at IBM.

Get the facts, read your employment offers and employee handbooks

Now that we’ve cleared up the legality of working two or more remote jobs, you should re-read all your employment offer letters. Pay particular attention to the wording in the conflict of interest section. It’s your choice to inform none, some, or all your employers you’re working multiple remote jobs.

Here at Overemployed, the community has embraced the “let the sleeping dogs lie” policy — keeping our heads down and mouth shut, especially when there’s no conflict of interest. We believe it is the most humane and ethical way to keep both sides happy. It’s human nature to dislike promiscuity. But we want to remind everyone there’s no reward for loyalty in the corporate world. So why should you date exclusively for work?

The biggest gotcha employers can impose on at-will employees is a conflict of interest policy. So don’t be a jackass and go work for competitors, contractors, clients, vendors, and the likes. Just be smart like the Overemployed community.

Overemployment in Tech is very common due to a lack of skills (perceived or real is debatable)

While I don’t entirely agree with the opinions expressed by the Grocery Guy, the general legal principles apply whether you’re bagging groceries or writing code. Like companies, we’re all trying to maximize our profits, so take advantage of the mismatch in demand and supply and go after multiple remote jobs.

Just make sure you’ve reviewed your local and state employment laws (again, sleep easy if you’re in California). And if necessary, consult a lawyer for what is a really small fee to have peace of mind. While we aren’t legal experts, we’re bullish that the laws allow us to create an Association of the Overemployed and turning the tide on corporate exploits of labor. Our goal is to keep adding partnerships and services to meet the needs of the Overemployed.

Need another opinion on a potential conflict of interest?

Send your employee offer letters and/or employee handbooks to me, Isaac, directly and I can get back to you within 24 hours with my non-legally binding opinion. And if you’re in New York, then you can grab a free 30-minute consult with Matthew Berman from Valli, Kane, and Vagnini LLP.

Curious to learn more from the community? Join us and find out.

37 comments

  1. Hi. I’m a labor lawyer in California and also a couple other states. I’ve been doing this area of law for 17 years at writing. Your advice above isn’t correct.

    I say this as someone with a pro employee view and also as someone who hates wasted time and the clock watching model of employment, which is greatly outdated.

    So here’s why your article is wrong. You owe your employer several fiduciary duties, including a duty of loyalty. Not working when you are supposed to work violates your fiduciary duties. Violating your fiduciary duties comes with serious consequences including your employer suing you for refund of all the wages you were paid during the time of your faithlessness.

    There’s probably also something in your handbook about disclosing any moonlighting. Failure to do that is what will get you fired if you are caught, regardless of whether you are at-will (public employees, some executives and unique professionals, employees with contracts, and union members, are frequently not at will).

    If you’re an hourly employee (as opposed to salary), staying on the clock while working for someone else is theft, which again could result in a lawsuit for refund of your wages (criminal prosecution is possible and I have seen it happen)..

    There are ways to work two or more jobs simultaneously without breaking the law or cheating people. But to make a blanket statement that you can be on the clock on two jobs simultaneously without legal consequences is not correct. You really don’t want to get caught and have your employer hire someone like me, because then you’ll be regretting making life decisions based on the anonymous advice of overconfident bloggers.

    1. Hi!

      Thanks for weighing in. While you claim to be “pro-employee” much of the argument you make here is basically “pro-big corp” while neglecting to weigh the “pro-employee” side. So let me try to do that.

      You state there are ways to work two or more remote jobs without breaking the law or cheating people. I wonder what laws are being broken here other than potentially breaking an employment contract? Is that a law or a commercial agreement? Please let us know what are the right ways you know of to 2x!

      Also, I don’t say there are no legal consequences. What I’m saying the legal consequences are minute and not re-enforceable. The low risks then make Overmeployed worth the risks itsef. I do hear these big corp lawyer scare tactics a lot, and why many are short-changing themselves from not being overemployed. Your statements gave me a chuckle because I had consulted multiple big law firm labor lawyers and partners on this precise topic and they all said the same thing — low risks, most employers don’t try to enforce because their lawyers know it pretty un-enforceable in court.

      Kudos and good point on non-at will employee and hourly employee. I’ll edit and re-state the article assumes you’re none of the above — which is like 99% of tech workers.

      Thanks!

    2. Isaac’s article never mentions anything about “being on the clock” or having set working hours. And, that seems to be the only scenario you’re speaking to. So, I think it’s you who is wrong.

      Often, remote jobs are production-based and goal-oriented — of the “just get your work done and meet your goals” variety,\ — which means no set hours (aside from things like meetings, which are always scheduled in advance). Remote employers commonly tell new employees things like, “We are flexible in terms of scheduling. We don’t have set hours. This isn’t a 9 – 5. Just get your job done.”

      So, based on what you’re saying here about hours (and I still don’t understand why you chose to harp on that point when this article doesn’t even mention that), if you have two remote jobs, both are production-based and goal-oriented, and neither has set hours, having two full-time remote jobs is actually 100% legal.

    3. If employment is considered “at will”, salaried, and only subject to a code of conduct / handbook (no official binding employment contract), does the fiduciary duty or duty of loyalty still apply? Is a duty of loyalty even enforceable in court (much like some NDAs or non-competes)?

      In context of fiduciary duty – the handbook definitely covers it but my understanding is that the handbook (at my company, at least) is not legally binding, but is grounds for dismissal.

      I feel like these could only be grounds for a lawsuit if you go beyond company policy and violate (federal, state, local, regulatory) laws & CFR, if employment is at will.

      Appreciate any clarification.

      1. The employment contract probably says “such regulations as may be set out in the Handbook and any updates thereto”.

        Dear Anonymous Overemployee:

        Please be careful.

        Remember,

        1. Employment law is a well developed civil law specialty;
        2. There is clear legislation in most jurisdictions; and
        3. case law, interpretation so legislation is not easily available.

        There is an abundance of case law on issues such as “fiduciary duty” and “non-compete”

        If in doubt, please consult a lawyer. As they say “He or she who acts as his or her own lawyer has an unwise person for a client”.

  2. Yes an “employee” generally owes their employer a fiduciary duty of loyalty, but that begs the question: are you an “employee” or an independent contractor? The answer depends on which State you are in, and the nature of your work (typically your employment status will be determined by multiple factors that tend to focus on the scope of the employer’s control over the terms and conditions of your employment).

    However, even if you are an “employee,” the terms of your employment may be governed by a written agreement, which you should check carefully. If, for example, you are not “on the clock,” it may be possible for you to pursue dual employment without violating your contractual or fiduciary duties. You should consult an attorney in your State before you consider taking on a dual role.

    Matthew L. Berman, Esq.
    Representing Employees Exclusively (in New York State)

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-berman-lawyer/

  3. You guys are confused. The duty of loyalty only applies to directors and officers of a company. All officers are statutory employees but not all employees (including engineers, secretaries, etc.) are officers.
    Even employees with titles such as “vice president” are not necessarily officers of a company, but simply just employees with a title.

    What’s worth acknowledging is your *contractual* obligations you agreed to when you signed up for employment. Even in at-will employment, you have agreed to additional terms & conditions as part of that employment. If the employee handbook says you must disclose a second job, then violation of that is technically a fireable offence, Same thing with any other policy.

    Then on top of that, if by taking a second job, you violate any policies in your employment terms that could be argued as having caused harm to the company, you are bringing upon yourself civil liability (read: they can sue you for damages to their business and it will have to come out of your personal savings and brokerage accounts).

    Also, if you have a main job that pays your bills and if fired, cannot be replaced even by two other simultaneous jobs, then you better think twice about taking on a second secret job for one very important reason: you main job’s terms probably also include intellectual property provisions that cover also what you create outside of immediate working hours. At that point, not only you are civilly liable to your main employer, the work product you create for the second employer is “tainted” and your second employer might have reason to sue you too.

    1. Under New York law, employees owe their employer a duty of loyalty, regardless of whether they are officers or directors. In our state, you can be employed pursuant to an employment agreement, which could potentially limit the right of an employer to terminate you. Alternatively, if you are an employee without a contract, you are considered “at will” which means either party can end the employment relationship at any time, for any reason (except an unlawful reason, such as discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, etc.).

      However, you may not be an “employee” at all! You could be an independent contractor. In New York, whether you are an employee or an independent contractor is fact specific and depends on a number of factors which – generally speaking – turn on the hiring party’s degree of supervision, direction and control over the hired party. Here’s an example of a recent case discussing these factors:

      https://www.scribd.com/document/453589237/In-the-Matter-of-the-Claim-of-Luis-A-Vega-Respondent-Postmates-Inc-Respondent-Commissioner-of-Labor-Appellant?campaign=SkimbitLtd&ad_group=66960X1514734Xf17b9e5b1d7a3f319a693c33a2647ef7&keyword=660149026&source=hp_affiliate&medium=affiliate

      Civil liability of a 2x+ employee to one or more of their employers *is* possible under a number of legal theories, including the “faithless servant” doctrine, breach of contract, breach of an employee’s duty of care/loyalty, unjust enrichment, theft of trade secrets, tortious interference, etc. This is one of several reasons why you should consult with an employment attorney in your state, preferably *before* you accept a second engagement. This can help you determine if you have protection from liability through, for example, a well-drafted agreement governing the terms and conditions of your relationship with the hiring party.

      Matthew L. Berman, Esq.
      Representing Employees Exclusively (in New York State)

      https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-berman-lawyer/

  4. If an employer catches you working another full time job and simply says you were stealing time ( you didn’t actually work 8hr a day for either of them ) – how is that not considered theft? How can you get out of that in court. You were stealing from one or the other if you were working 2 full time jobs remote at the same time , same work hours.

    1. Hi – none of my employment offers says “you must work 8 hours per working day” in fact they just say you will be available during working hours (however that’s defined). For global companies, that could mean 24/7 continuous operations, then I’d ask which of those 8 hours will you work? I mean, do you really work 8 hours on the dot exactly though? What kind of world is that now? It sounds like you’ve been “stealing” from your own life this whole time. #priorities

      1. I don’t know what this is in the US, but the UK definitely has “statutory laws”, which is basically a generalised 37.5 hours per week , with expected breaks etc. This is by law, if a company writes in the contract that they expect you to work loosely, then they basically implied that they want you to work extra hours and not be paid overtime. This is a get out clause… Contractors in the tech world is actually not “employees”. I know, cos i was one before.. and you are basically working as an independent company owner. Just that in the UK, we have laws which can allow us to work under someone else’s company… but this is unique and is not applicable to all countries or states in the US !! Don’t presume that just cos a loose generalised view that US, UK, or Canada follows Common Law that it means like for like. Contractors are basically suppliers. A supplying company who is part of the supply chain and that they have to have insurance to cover their work etc.

  5. I’m new to working two remote job gigs, and I did sign an exclusivity agreement with the new company. My first job is online education. Most of my work is done at night and weekends (excluding virtual department meetings), which may occasionally interfere with a full-time day job (I’m planning on taking my lunch hour to attend those meetings). So, am I violating the new agreement if I’ve disclosed the teaching job during my interview and it is not in the same industry as the second job? I find the language of committing time, attention, and knowledge exclusively to a company very unrealistic. I have small children, so wouldn’t they be considered a full-time job that devotes time and attention during the day? What is the worst-case scenario? The new employer expects me to quit the first job and fires me if I don’t do it? I’m not concerned about meeting the expectations of both jobs simultaneously.

    1. Without seeing the actual agreement you’ve signed, I’d say these agreements tend to not be enforceable in court and are standard big corporate lawyer talk to scare you from doing two jobs for your family, which isn’t illegal period. The exclusivity agreement is more of a commercial agreement between you and the employer, I’d think of it that way. What happens when you’ve a commercial disagreement? It either gets arbitration or settled out of court, if it even gets there. Simply, they’d just fire you. Oh wait, they could do that anytime already without reason, aka at-will employment. So go get two jobs, and then when a better third one comes along, now you fire your bad employer or boss by leaving them.

  6. All of the above args don’t take into consideration the fact that many working weeks are longer than 40 hours….

  7. Dude I have a mouse mover that moves my mouse around for 4-6 hours in the morning when I “work”. I sleep until lunch time. Every work day is a Friday for me. I just have to get a certain amount of work done usually weekly, but mostly monthly. I usually get it all done late afternoon. The mouse mover keeps it so it looks like I’m logged in on Skype online and working away. My boss doesn’t bother me, nor can she know if I’m even awake. Once in a while I get a ping and it wakes me up. So for half of the 9-5 work day I’m literally unconscious. I’ve been doing this for months now, close to a year. It’s a full time job with full time salary. Instead of those unconscious hours I can get up and work a second remote job. For real, if my employer doesn’t know if I’m awake or sleeping… they certainly can’t find out if I’m doing another gig. I’ve gotten laid, drunk, and high, all on company “time”. Not a thing they can do to trace me, save from out a camera in my apartment.

    1. Where’d you get the mouse mover? I do something similar but with a misshapen clay egg mykid made in art class.

  8. I’m only commenting on the UK perspective, but this doesn’t seem workable for most employees and organisations.

    Most contracts of employment (contractors, freelancers, workers and any title or contractual status (i.e. zero hours) that is not an employee could do this) state a set number of hours (usually weekly and specified as Monday to Friday) that must be worked. How does an employee meet the contractual requirement to work a 37. 5 hour week Monday to Friday under two contracts of employment at the same time?

    Multiple (remote) employment could be possible in the UK with lower risk, but two or more sets of sustained full time overlapping employment (e.g. not contracting, or running down an old job – most UK jobs have statutory and contractual notice that is longer than 2 weeks) could be really difficult to maintain and report properly to the tax and social security authorities.

    I’m behind what you are doing and think your collective is great for people to maximise their time and income but I don’t think that it’s really as easy as suggested for certain countries, industries, sectors, or for most people who have a standard employee/employer contractual relationship with their main organisation.

    This working approach has been featured in a UK national broadsheet newspaper and this website referenced (hence my finding you, cool) and was written to suggest that everyone could be doing this, which perhaps won’t be the case for as many as may want to.

  9. Does anyone have any ideas on how to work two full time Call Center jobs at the same time when you have to take calls all day on both jobs?

    1. Hi! This is great feedback. I’ll have to update this post specific to UK and Canada. That said, sounds like it’s not illegal to 2x in the UK, and furthermore, termination is even more stringent legally speaking. I’m sure like in the US, big corporations, with their army of lawyers, will finagle and skirt towards to edge of the law to terminate someone, if need be, like finding out you’re 2x-ing. The point of the article is no one is really “protected” and why these employment laws exist is to arrest bad behaviors — and they haven’t quite worked really because the burden of proof is so high and so is the legal costs.

  10. “the Employment Standards Act does not allow at will employment contracts in Canada”
    very easy google search. The first statement is wrong…

    1. I’ll update this post shortly to reflect these nuances for Canada and UK. Appreciate the quick feedback! Looks like a common mistake most US companies make when hiring in Canada and UK — which have more progressive labor laws might I add! It looks like Canada and UK has similar common law approach to give employee-employer a “fair” notice: https://duttonlaw.ca/at-will-employment-canada/ Key point below:

      The History of Reasonable Notice
      Osgoode Hall Law Professor David Doorey recounted that about 150 years ago in England, a concern in early employment contract law was ensuring agricultural employers had sufficient labour to complete the harvest. As a result, the courts developed an implied term in employment contracts that employment was implied to last at least one year. On the other hand, a one-year contract also encouraged employers to pay workers through the agricultural off season, so that those workers did not become a social burden to their village. To that end, English judges made the common law such that employment contracts were only terminable by one party providing notice of termination of a length equal to the period remaining on the contract (i.e. one year or less). Most common law jurisdictions in the world followed this model as their courts developed, except one notable exception – the United States.

      Differences between the law of employment termination in USA and Canada
      In the United States (except Montana) an employee can generally be terminated for no reason and with no notice (i.e. severance) because it is an ‘at will” jurisdiction. However, Canada is a ‘common law’ jurisdiction. In Canada, unless there is just cause for an employee’s termination or the employee has an enforceable termination clause in their contract (that at least meets provincial minimum standards), the employer must provide reasonable notice or pay in lieu of notice. Calculating reasonable notice (also known as severance) is not a simple formula – it is an art developed over time by employment lawyers.

  11. Thank you for this great interesting thread! One question I have that I don’t understand why it is not being brought up is this: how can your employer even find out you have a second job? Can background check be done, or some sort of look-up? Or is the only way you can be “caught” from gossip or social media?

    Also does this depend on if you have two W2s, two independant contracts, or one of each?
    I currently have one W2 (software engineer) and want to get a second job and will choose either independant contractor or employee based on which is less worrisome.
    Any thoughts of feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thank you in advance!!

    1. Thanks for your question. First, of course, consult an employment lawyer for your specific country and locale. Nothing mentioned here should be construed as legal advice.

      For the US, the risk of getting “found” is so low if you just follow Rule #1 (and Rule #12) from https://overemployed.com/12-rules-for-working-remote-wfh/

      Re background check, it all depends on what you consent to and what level of scrutiny your employers want or are willing to pay for. The extremes are 1) a top-secret security clearance which will cost employers tens of thousands of dollars, or 2) employers just want to do a criminal and public records check, not credit check required. So the short answer is it depends on your employer(s). Chances are low to get “found” after being employed because it costs money to run background checks, and if you’re staying under the radar, why would your employers run a random background check?

      Do risks of getting “found” exist? Yes. Is the probability of getting found worth the 2x payoff? I’d say yes. What’s the worst that happens if you get found? You get fired. But wait, you got multiple jobs — onto the next one!

  12. Thanks everyone for contributing to this. Very interesting to read. I just read my first company’s “Code of Conduct” agreement and it says that I must avoid conflict of interests and inform my employer of “employment in addition to [my] role.” Would this include independent contractor or just employee on W2?

    More broadly speaking I have these two questions:
    1. Assuming there is no conflict of interest. Is it safer (legally) or less worrisome to have your second job be an independant contractor (W2) or employee (1099)?
    2. How do people get “caught” when it does happen? Outside of gossip or social media, is there another way your employer can find out (i.e a background check)?
    All replies and thoughts would be greatly appreciated, thank you in advance!

    1. Thanks, Double Dip Dreamer for your questions.

      1. Employers can legally go after you if they think their case has legal standing. Will they? Are you that big of a deal they’ll waste their legal team’s time? I doubt it. You’ll just get fired. So legally, two jobs are legal. It’s a matter of breaking a contract. Businesses break contracts with each other every day. Most get negotiated and settled. For average joes, that “settlement” is you get fired — worst case. Crazy as it seems, some managers and HR don’t want the spotlight or embarrassment, so they rather sweep it under the rug and make no mention of it and may even keep you employed.
      2. Check on Discord — we’ve a dedicated #failed-stories channel for it. Most that you hear in my opinion are urban legends or pure dumb mistakes from people who can’t keep quiet and stay low-key.

  13. Hi,
    General question – if one or more of e remote jobs I am working is based in a different state from where I live, do the labor laws of the state where I live apply, or is it based on the company’s state?

  14. What if your new second employer is in the process of doing their background check while your still working at your current job? Your dates of employment will be something they verify. I think there might be a chance they find out you haven’t put in your two week notice and that could be a potential red flag.

    1. Most employers don’t do background checks after you’re started for obvious reasons (too costly to get it wrong). Therefore, employers do a background check after you accepted their offer but have not started yet. Typically, they require your consent to verify your current employer directly. Again, for obvious reasons, this consent is not given (if your present employer finds out, things get unpredictable), so the background checker typically just asks for proof of employment such as very first and present paystubs. By the way, this is how a normal job-hopping process occurs, nothing special about it specific to Overemployed. We also keep a primary job that shows on your resume and burner jobs that you leave off. That way, we play along with the background check game, because it checks out (punt intended).

  15. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this outstanding blog!
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  16. I have a job in France and work remotely since Covid – this is under temporary residence to work legally.
    Additionally I have a job for a different company in the UK (Office Job ) in a different industry where I tend to visit the office every 10 days it is quite flexible.
    I pay tax in France (Remote job )and the UK (office job)
    I am preforming well in both – is there any risks here ?

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