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I work for a funeral home as full-time vocalist. When not working on a weekend, very seldom, I am asked by a family to sing at a local church for the funeral mass.

Is there any possible conflict of interest with my employer if they are not paying me? How should I address this situation to avoid any problems in the future?

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    I have updated the question to ask how to handle it. The yes or no question originally asked does not work well in the SE environment, but it seems intuitive you are seeking to avoid the conflict so I have updated the question to ask how best to accomplish that. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Dec 27 '13 at 16:41
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Is there any possible conflict of interest with my employer if they are not paying me?

Anything is possible, but in this case I don't see any conflict at all, unless you have a contract with your employer that prohibits such outside work.

The vocal services at the funeral home and vocal services at the funeral mass aren't in competition with each other, and in a way may be complementary roles, right?

I wouldn't be worried about it.

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It depends on the situation:

  • if this is a service that your employer would have provided but charged money for, then you are undercutting them by providing it for free.

  • if the contact came from your work for your employer, you are on shaky ground as the opportunity came from paid work.

It's probably worth it to have a discussion with your employer and work it out. I work for a dance troupe where dancers do participate in outside activities, and the cornerstone to working successfully together is to discuss it and clarify boundaries in what is and isn't a conflict of interest... I can see this working the same way. Your employer is likely not a huge organization with very strict rules - so a quick checkin ought to be pretty easy and I would think it would be appreciated by your employer.

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In some work contracts it is forbidden to compete with your employer.

When your employer would like to do something for money which you do for free, you are competing, and on quite unfair terms on top. Is there any chance that when you would refuse to do it for free that they would hire you (or another singer) through your employer and pay for it? When that's the case, your behavior is bad for their business.

Check your contract.

When you do not have a contract, check the work laws which apply to the jurisdiction where you are working.

  • Not all jobs have contracts. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Dec 27 '13 at 16:39
  • @Chad I addressed this now. – Philipp Dec 29 '13 at 19:58
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This is pretty clearly a contract issue. Whatever your contract says applies. If you contract doesn't preclude you from performing outside the funeral home, there is no problem.

Also, many people don't understand "Conflict of Interest." It means advancing the interests of one party will damage the interests of another, and both of whom are compensating you in order to advance their interests. It does not mean doing similar work for another party.

If the mass was not to be at the funeral home in the first place, and it is not making you "unavailable" for an event at the funeral home due to the mass, then there is no damage to the funeral home's interest.

However, that is not the issue. The issue is your employment agreement / contract. If you are precluded from performing at other events in this agreement, then you are violating your agreement. Whether or not it is an actual conflict of interests is moot.

  • I thank all of you for your comments regarding my singing (performing issue). I would just like to say again, that I have no written contract as a vocalist, not to perform outside of my regular working schedule. I feel that my employer would like to have me feel that they have an exclusive right to my talent, but I in no way have agreed to this. If they really wanted me not to sing when they are not paying me, then I would have to engage them in paying me not to do so. In addition to all this, I do lead a congregation on Sundays in song; the church pays me to do this, not my employer. – Steve Dec 31 '13 at 9:31
  • @Steve - Well, then you have no problem. No one has an exclusive right to any other person's talent. We got rid of that idea (in the U.S.) back in 1865. There is no explicit agreement for exclusivity (which if there were, would be invalid without compensation), and you cannot help anyone else's "feelings." – Wesley Long Dec 31 '13 at 18:37
  • Thank you Wesley for confirming what I believe to be as you have said about my singing. My function at work for over half the time I am employed, does not even involve me singing. I only sing for a couple minutes to the families, when we do have a funeral, before they process to the church. The rest of day I am a courier and performing miscellaneous duties. Thank you again! – Steve Jan 1 '14 at 18:40
  • Happy New Year, good health and happiness! – Steve Jan 1 '14 at 18:41

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