Request A Free Consultation
Sunset on a pier in Orange County

California Moonlighting Law

January 16, 2023 Legal Team

Moonlighting refers to an employee who works a second job on the side, usually after hours. California law generally protects the rights of workers to moonlight. Under California Labor Code section 96, employers are essentially prohibited from punishing employees who engage in moonlighting in their free time.

Exceptions to California’s Moonlighting Law

There are some exceptions to the moonlighting protections that California Labor Code section 96 provides. For example, when an employee is engaging in the following:

  • Illegal activity
  • Using company resources or property for moonlighting, such as computers, vehicles, office supplies, or money;
  • Inadequate sleep or distracted to the point that job performance suffers;
  • Moonlighting while on the clock at their regular job;
  • Using confidential information, trade secrets, or other employer data to support moonlighting activities;
  • The nature of moonlighting work is in direct conflict with the company. For example, working with or providing consultations to competitors, competing for an employer’s clients; or,
  • Activities that harm the goodwill or reputation of your employer.

At-Will Employment

Unless you have an employment contract that limits your employer’s right to fire you, you are an at-will employee. At-will employees can be fired at any time as long as it is for a legal reason. For example, when an employee juggles multiple jobs, they may perform mediocre work at all their jobs instead of excellent work at their primary day job. If that happens, primary employers are within their legal rights to terminate employees if moonlighting is hurting performance, dependability, and attentiveness. However, employers cannot take action against employees for their legal off-duty conduct.

Do I Have to Tell My Employer About a Second Job?

Unless you have signed a valid employment contract that prohibits you from taking a second job, you do not have to tell your employer about it, provided that the policy doesn’t require disclosure and/or approval. However, it is always best, to be honest with an employer.

Common Moonlighting Jobs

Moonlighting jobs are ideally low-stress and/or flexible that work with your existing schedule. For example

  • Elderly Companion: Visit with clients and keep them company, attend to day-to-day needs, run errands for them, etc.
  • Delivery Driver: Many moonlighters work as delivery drivers, including anything from pizza runs to grocery shopping.
  • Hotel Night Desk Clerk: This job can be super mellow or high-stress, depending on the size of the hotel.
  • Bartender and/or Serving: These are prevalent and easy to find moonlighting jobs.
  • Lifeguard: Hanging by the pool can turn into a moonlighting job if you are willing to get certified as a lifeguard.
  • Warehouse Jobs: There are often many opportunities for graveyard shifts or picking up weekend hours.

What Happens if I Am Fired for Moonlighting?

Subsection (k) of California Labor Code section 96 allows “Claims for loss of wages as the result of demotion, suspension, or discharge from employment for lawful conduct occurring during nonworking hours away from the employer’s premises.” This has been interpreted to encompass demotions and firings of employees due to lawful moonlighting that employers do on their own time.

As a result, if you believe you were unfairly terminated for moonlighting, speak to an experienced Orange County wrongful termination lawyer. You may have the legal grounds to file a lawsuit.