I work as a web developer. My employer recently found out that I am freelancing as a web developer on the side and he told me I am not allowed to do this as it "is a rule". I did not sign any contracts when I took this job and no where does it state this "rule". When I do freelance, I do it on my own time and it does not affect the company whatsoever. Is my employer legally allowed to stop me from continuing?

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    A country code will help to get a specific answer. As like in quebec/canada, the ccq article 2088 ask the employee to be loyal. We can play with word there, but yes there they can force you
    – yagmoth555
    Mar 14, 2017 at 23:39
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    are you using any company resources at all in your side work?
    – NKCampbell
    Mar 15, 2017 at 0:10
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    How did your employer find out about your freelancing? If you want to continue maybe you should keep a lower profile. Your employer may decide to look the other way if you do so.
    – Brandin
    Mar 15, 2017 at 0:12
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    another factor - does the freelance work at all compete or undercut the work your company could be hired to do? If you work for a medical supply company, probably not, but if you are web services firm, then....he kinda may have a point. If there is no conflict of interest / competition, you may kindly ask about the policy and reframe it not as a loss for the company but as an opportunity to make you a better developer without them spending any money on training or resources
    – NKCampbell
    Mar 15, 2017 at 0:16
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    You have no contract. Seriously? What kind of operation is this? Are you a full-time employee, or a 1099? Are you a work for hire? If I were you, I'd demand a contract. And anything that your employer wants to add to the contract, you should ask money for. That opportunity cost is worth something? How much is it worth? $20,000? $15,000? At the end of the day, this isn't really a legal question. The real question is whether you're willing to walk away from the work if you can't both come to a mutual agreement. I'm assuming here that you're in an "At Will" State. Do tell us if you're not. Mar 15, 2017 at 8:29

2 Answers 2


Is my employer legally allowed to stop me from continuing?

If you are in the US your employer cannot stop you from freelancing. Assuming you don't have a contract that says otherwise, they can't sue you simply for freelancing or sue the company that purchases your freelancing services. They have no laws on their side.

They can, however, fire you from an at-will job in most cases for this reason or for no reason.

You might be best served by going along with your company's rules or finding a company with different rules.

The OP asked if his employer could "stop" him from freelancing. The answer was "No." If instead the question was if his employer could "fire" him for freelancing, the answer would have been "Yes". I'm sorry if this wasn't clear. Hypothetical methods of "stopping" the freelancing (if the laws permitted) could potentially involve suing the employee or the company that hires his freelancing services. Neither of these could normally happen in the US.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – enderland
    Mar 16, 2017 at 19:15
  • i'm just curious, are there any jobs here in the U.S. that are not at-will ? it's my understanding they all are
    – amphibient
    Mar 16, 2017 at 19:25
  • @amphibient See “At will” employment definition
    – Brandin
    Mar 16, 2017 at 19:49
  • thanks but my question wasn't what it is but whether there are any that are not
    – amphibient
    Mar 16, 2017 at 19:52
  • @amphibient: the are no positions that can't be at will, but there are locations where you can't just fire someone because you promised the boss you'd fire the first person you saw.
    – jmoreno
    Mar 16, 2017 at 22:27

As indicated by Joe Strazzere, they are free to release you for pretty much any reason that doesn't fall under discrimination laws if you live in a location that does "at will" hiring. For the purpose of things like unemployment, this does not count as being fired generally, which is a good thing.

To address the secondary question, when you mention that "it does not affect the company whatsoever", that's not necessarily true. First, sidejobs can create conflicts of interest. While the company that you're freelancing for may not currently be in conflict with your primary company, they might be in the future. Or, for that matter, there might be a conflict of interest that you are unaware of at the time. Second, and this is a stickier matter, there's a matter of availability. What happens when your company wants you to stay late, or be available on a weekend, and this bumps up against your freelance work? As I understand it, this is less of an issue if your primary job is contract work, as they would have to pay you for the hours that they expect you to be available. As a salaried employee, things get trickier, particularly if you work in an "exempt" position where you are not eligible for overtime, as your company technically pays you for your availability throughout the pay period, which is why you're guaranteed to be paid even if they don't have work for you at a given time. And, of course, even outside of billable hours, you still get that potential conflict of interest where they will never be certain whether you will be available for an emergency situation after hours.

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    Or you get burned-out because of the extra work.
    – user8365
    Mar 15, 2017 at 21:17

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