A friend I used to work for at a very small company reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to help them solve critical bugs and defects in an old application that they use and support. They have had a string of bad luck with prior contractors and he thought that since I have intimate knowledge of the quirks of this application that I would be the best person to most effeciently deal with them. I left the company several years ago as an employee on good terms.

He wants me to give him a quote to solve several bugs, which I agreed to. I told him what I would do is detail roughly what I suspect about the defect, offer a high level description of how I think it should be solved or investigated further, and then give him a rough estimate in hours to complete and deploy the defect resolution. In terms of a rate we agreed to work through that after we agree on the details of the quote. I mentioned to him that I have a day job and other responsibilities and that I cannot commit to any dates and that I will plan to work on this in any free time I happen to have. I planned on taking that restriction into account when discussing a fair rate.

The problem that I am struggling with is that my current employer requires all employees disclose any additional employment and that if we wish to take on additional employment then we must request approval from HR beforehand. I get that they dont want potential liability or conflicts of interest by working for a vendor or client of the company or even a direct competitor, but none of this happens to be applicable. My old company is very small, in a completely different industry, and while they had a brief vendor relationship with my current company at one point, that relationship ended several years ago.

Is this normal and legal in the US to require employees to disclose their other employment? Does this apply to self employment too where I am not an employee of another company but being contracted to perform some work? How can they even enforce such a policy? Just because I get a W2 from my current employer doesnt mean that they can necessarily see my other tax forms like 1099 other? How could they even find out if I decided not to tell them?

  • 1
    stay honest and tell them about the other 'employment' - they may agree or disagree, but you lawfully uphold to your contract - not telling them could get you into more trouble than you wish for..
    – iLuvLogix
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 13:10
  • It is common (not "really common", but common). It's utterly legal. Finally - why wouldn't you just tell them?
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 13:31

3 Answers 3


The risks of discovery is not worth the benefit.

Consider this: what could you lose by deliberately misleading your primary employer (your job and primary source of income) and what could you lose by requesting permission (a minor side income with your friend). You don't have to look hard at those options to realise that one is a much bigger problem than the other.

Write to HR in a polite fashion, explaining what the job is, and how it doesn't conflict with your role at the company, and request permission. The worst that happens is that they say 'no'.


Well, several things:

  1. if it is in your contract then you must tell them otherwise you are breaching your contract. They may be ok with you doing that piece of work but concerned you are loading yourself too much, or, they may want to charge your time to the other company - either is possible.

2)"Normal" - what is "normal"? if it is in the contract then it is probably "normal"... IANAL.

  1. if the other company is in a different industry they likely won't be worried but if you were working for a direct competitor then they would be worried.

Tell them - best to be safe and sure. I asked for a small thing like this at my place of work and they said "fine, just don't do too much and suffer through overwork".

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    On the legal question - yes it applies, it’s fairly common, and it’s enforceable. However there is a very low chance they’d find out - mainly it’d be from you telling someone at your new company or using company equipment for it.
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 13:05

To avoid more trouble than it's worth, you go to your employer (probably your manager first), and tell them that a friend has been asking you for help, and his company needs a few nasty bugs fixed in an application that was written for them.

Possible answers are: (A) No way. (B) No problem. (C) No problem if you buy lunch for your whole small team so that everyone benefits. (I've encountered something similar to (C) personally). If the answer is (A) then you would think very, very hard before you go against that.

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