Last year, Fallon Carpenter, vice president of people and culture at financial planning company Sentinel Group in Wakefield, Mass., discovered something concerning: a senior employee was working the same job at another company and lying to everyone involved.
"They were working both jobs during the same working hours, collecting two paychecks and deceiving both firms," Carpenter said. "We were contacted by the other firm because they noticed some suspicious behavior from said employee."
Carpenter, who oversees 255 employees, verified that the employee was indeed working both jobs and fired the person immediately.
"Not only did this employee break policy," she said, "they also no longer aligned with our value of integrity and being honest and transparent."
Carpenter is just one of many HR professionals who have had to deal with employees working two full-time jobs. Since the rise of remote work during the pandemic, it's become easier than ever for employees to lead a double work life: logging on full time, juggling meetings and tasks, and collecting two paychecks.
According to statistics from MarketWatch and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of this past March, more than 8 million Americans were working multiple jobs. And a Resume Builder survey from October 2022 showed that 69 percent of remote workers have a second job, though the vast majority of these additional roles are part time.
Given the prevalence of remote work, the rising cost of living and wages not keeping pace with inflation for most employees, some employees are finding it necessary to hold two full-time jobs.
But how are employers supposed to respond when—or if—they find out? Like Carpenter, should they fire the employee? Or should there be other steps before making a definitive termination?
Verify the Information
Before taking any action, HR must verify that the employee is indeed working two full-time jobs. Start by looking for signs that the employee may not be fully engaged.
"It's important to look at their productivity level at the job they're doing for your organization," said Bobbi Kloss, vice president of human capital management with the Benefit Advisors Network (BAN) in Cleveland. "I recommend looking for behavior changes, including performance deterioration, and then ask employees: 'Why is this happening?' Don't just treat the problem but be solution-minded and get to the root cause. Rather than lose an employee, work together to find a solution."
Kloss shared that when she believed an employee was working two jobs, she monitored the employee's productivity to find out the reason. She uncovered that the employee was working one shift for BAN and then another for a different employer, though the two didn't overlap.
"Once we verified the situation, we engaged in a confidential conversation with the employee to understand their reasons for taking on another full-time job," she said.
"When questioned by [the employee's] supervisor about his slowdown in performance, he shared that he needed extra income to keep up with bills."
Because this person was a long-time valued employee, HR and his immediate supervisor worked with him to review and adjust his compensation so that he could leave his second job.
"Usually, if an employee is working two full-time jobs, there is a legitimate reason, likely financial," Kloss said. "Ask questions, and don't assume to know the reason why or immediately jump to termination. We believe in open communication and addressing issues directly."
Protecting the Organization
When employees work two-full time jobs, they may be harming both themselves and their employers, say workplace experts.
"From the employee's perspective, it can lead to burnout, decreased productivity and compromised job performance in both roles," said Jon Morgan, CEO of Venture Smarter, a Cincinnati company with 75 employees. "It can also impact their overall well-being, as balancing two full-time jobs often results in long hours, stress, and little time for personal life or self-care."
Conversely, the detrimental effects for a company include a potential conflict of interest, reduced productivity and a decline in the quality of the employee's work, Morgan said.
"Additionally, it erodes trust and can set a precedent that undermines our company culture and policies," he said.
Morgan explained that he regularly looks at employee data to track productivity, which can turn up potential cases of employees working two full-time jobs.
"Regularly monitoring work hours and performance helps us identify any deviations or signs of dual employment," he said. After looking at the information available, Morgan will then sit down and have an honest discussion with an employee whose productivity has been suffering to uncover the reason, he said.
A Misunderstanding or a Violation
In many cases, an employee who works more than one job may not know that there is anything wrong with collecting two paychecks, which the employer should discuss during an initial conversation with the employee.
"Depending on the circumstances, our actions may vary," said Morgan. "In some cases, it might be a simple misunderstanding or a temporary situation that can be resolved through a change in work schedule or workload adjustment."
If it's clear that the employee is violating company policies and contractual obligations, Morgan continued, "appropriate disciplinary actions may be taken, up to and including termination, depending on the severity of the violation."
Put Stipulations in Place
If companies don't want employees working more than one job at once, it's imperative to include that rule in the employee handbook. Additionally, if it is permitted in some situations, spell that out, as well.
For instance, Sentinel Group won't limit "an employee's activities during nonworking hours unless those activities interfere or conflict with the employee's ability to fully and effectively perform their job responsibilities, whether directly or indirectly," Carpenter said. However, outside employment for a competitor or work that is considered a conflict of interest is prohibited.
"If an employee accepts outside employment, they should notify their manager, or [HR], to ensure that their position does not pose a conflict of interest," Carpenter said. "If it is determined that an employee's outside work interferes with their performance or ability to meet the requirements of their position, they may be asked to terminate the outside employment if they wish to remain with the company."
Determine What Workers Need
In most cases, employees who work two full-time jobs do it to keep up with rising costs or a significant expense, such as a new home or college tuition. Rather than losing that employee to another company, employers can find out exactly what those employees need to be productive and satisfied within their current position so that they give up the second job. It starts with open dialogue, Morgan said.
"We maintain an open-door policy, encouraging employees to discuss their concerns or challenges with us so that we can address them promptly and collaboratively," he explained.
Kloss and her team ensure that employee pay is competitive and reviewed annually and that their workplace environment is promoting a healthy lifestyle.
"Employers should consider whether their culture supports a need for someone to work another full-time job and if it promotes a healthy, holistic (financial, physical, emotional and social well-being) work/life balance," she said.
Morgan added that offering flexible scheduling options when possible to accommodate employee needs may also be a solution. "Encouraging a healthy work environment and fostering a culture of trust are key components of our prevention strategy," he said.
Kylie Ora Lobell is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.