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I am discussing an idea about a personal project with a colleague. As part of our discussion, my colleague raised the need for an NDA. This project is something I am carrying out in my free time, so it is not tied to my current employer.

My question is: Do I need permission from my employer to sign an NDA? Can I sign an NDA without informing my employer and without requesting his permission?

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  • 1
    Who would be the parties to that NDA?
    – mustaccio
    Nov 19 '21 at 18:13
  • 1
    Where are you located?
    – Abigail
    Nov 19 '21 at 23:11
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    I understand this as if you and your colleague would sign the NDA to prevent one of you telling about the private project. Now I am just curious, why do you think your employer should say "I am fine with you agreeing to not talk about what you do in your private time"?
    – puck
    Nov 20 '21 at 9:08
26

Signing an NDA of itself doesn't sound like an issue.

But... you will have to be very, very careful that whatever you're doing doesn't in any way conflict with your obligations to your employer. This is doubly so because you're engaging in this project with a colleague. At the absolute minimum, it would be advisable not to discuss the project in work time or on any company supplied equipment.

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    I think flagging the proximity of the project to the OPs employment is a very important point in this answer. Perception can be as important as reality in this instance.
    – DWGKNZ
    Nov 19 '21 at 14:26
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No, unless your employer is party to the discussions and/ or project then you do not need to inform them of the NDA.

There may be times where you may have many active NDAs, it is up to you to ensure you remain within the bounds of each (or at least are consciously accepting the risk of contravening any of them).

However:

You hold a separate contract, and possibly NDA, from your employer which you will need to check to ensure that there is no overlap between the activities. There may be non-compete, moonlighting, or other clauses in your employment contract that may prohibit you from working on another project.

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    Or, worst case, the OP's employment contract states that the OP's current employer owns all IP that the OP produces, regardless of it being produced inside or outside of working hours.
    – Peter M
    Nov 19 '21 at 15:40
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I think it depends on what country you're from. In the USA, all of the jobs I had required me to sign a NDA and non-compete clause. By doing this personal project, you may be violating the non-compete clause.

Generally speaking you should at least let your employer know that you are doing work. It's not so they can strike you down or give you permission but more like they just need it for reporting purposes that you're working outside of work.

It's best to do this in case of any accidental slip up. For example, you say to your boss you can't come to the after work dinner because you have to go work with your colleague. Then your boss will have questions and may not be pleased that you're working on something that's possibly similar to what you're doing at work.

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  • depends further on US State, as the most often relevant aspect of non-compete clauses, working for a competitor of a former employer, has been found fundamentally illegal/invalid in some important US states like CA.
    – Pete W
    Nov 19 '21 at 19:07

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