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fufuchan

Can I work part-time on the side for a competitor?

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I thought I'd come here first before going to a lawyer to make sure. I really have no idea. 

 

To summarize, I work at company A on a specific contract. Company B, which will be a direct competitor once they win this same contract, wants me to help them now on a consulting basis to help them get ready and set up for their contract that they are most likely going to win. (They will then hire me on full time).

 

Is that legal for me to work for Company B on a part time basis while still working at Company A full time without disclosing this to Company A? If not, what could the consequences be (firing, legal action, etc…)?

 

I don't know if I have a non-compete or NDA (don't know if this matters) with my current company, although I can find out by going to HR i suppose. Would that raise red flags/will they think i'm leaving? (I hear my HR department personnel have big mouths).

 

 

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You can't expect us to speak on the topic if you don't even know whether you signed an agreement not to compete with your employer or collude with another company to help it take business out from under your employer.  We also can't know if it's unlawful (we don't know enough about what you're doing).

Something doesn't have to be "illegal" or even a breach of a contract in order to get you fired or sued by your employer. 

I'd like to think you'd pay attention to stuff you sign and also not sign stuff without ensuring you have a duplicate copy before you hand it back over to someone, but ...   As for a non-disclosure agreement, even if you signed one, we can't know if that matters in this scenario based on what you've said (and not said).  You're certainly a disloyal employee (which should bother Company B, but maybe the folks there aren't that bright ... or don't care and/or are lying about bringing you on full-time if/when they win because they just want to use you).

You can't expect strangers to know what HR will think.  Either you intend to leave or you don't.  If you don't want to ask, then talk with a lawyer about asking this prospective employer and current client (for whom you want to act as consultant) to indemnify you from any damages that your employer might come after you for.

 

I'm not sure why you care whether HR tells someone that you were asking for copies of paperwork you signed when you hired on. 

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I may have copies of the documents in my drawer at work, and if I don't, I will ask HR for them. I am just asking the question about HR because I thought people on this forum may have heard some stories about dealing with HR and they may have some insight. This issue just came up an hour ago and I can't get my papers until at least tomorrow, unfortunately.

 

I got this job 4 years ago and it was my first job out of college so I cannot remember if I signed an NDA or non-compete. I wasn't picky about what terms the employer wanted to hire me on, but I do know I wouldn't have signed anything that was completely unreasonable. 

 

I am not sure how searching for a new job makes me a disloyal employee. I am not giving Company B any information or doing any work for them. In fact, I am on here asking the question to make sure I don't do anything wrong against my current company. I need to get back to Company B and tell them whether I can do it or not.

 

Yes, they could "USE" me. However, given the circumstances and the people involved, I am pretty confident that is not the case; I am willing to take that risk. I feel that this is also irrelevant to my question. Please correct me if I am wrong.

 

I am just looking for some insight into whether I should be worried about this at all or not. I am not a lawyer or familiar with these laws at all or even the ethics of any of this. If you are able to help with my question if I provide more information, I am happy to do so. I just need to know what you need. I will get copies of the documents tomorrow or Monday.

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The real question here is whether you are in a position to reveal secrets that you have learned from working for your present employer.  If you are merely tightening widgets on a frammis then that would probably not be a problem.  But if you are a design engineer, sales manager, or such then your current employer would be justified in firing you and even suing you for revealing trade secrets.  A very simple test:  would you be comfortable telling your current supervisor that you are working for the competitor.  If you would be reluctant to do that, then you probably have an ethical problem.  It's not that complicated.

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I don't know if I have a non-compete or NDA (don't know if this matters) with my current company

 

Ummm...yes, it matters, and if you don't know the relevant facts, there's very little we can do for you.

 

Consulting with Company B isn't illegal (i.e., it's not a crime).  Whether it violates the terms of your contract with Company A obviously depends on the terms of the contract and the laws of your unidentified state.

 

 

 

although I can find out by going to HR i suppose. Would that raise red flags/will they think i'm leaving? (I hear my HR department personnel have big mouths).

 

No one here has the ability to know how some unknown person will react to an inquiry.

 

In the future always keep copies of contracts you sign.  I also agree that the possibility of revealing trade secrets could be an issue.

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And it would be legal for HR to tell your manager if you asked for copies of your contract or if they suspect you are about to leave. That is their job. It isn't a matter of having a big mouth or gossiping, it is their job to protect the company's interest.

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Hi there,

 

Like the other posters said, the terms of your employment contract will definitely change the answers you're going to get. Please feel free to provide us with the relevant details in a follow-up post when you have access to your contract (leaving out any personal/confidential/identifying information, of course). Hope to hear from you soon!

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