Moonlighting: Should You Tell Your Boss?

When fitness buff Amanda Furgiuele began teaching pole-dancing classes after work two years ago, she didn't broadcast it to colleagues at her day job as a television producer.

"Although I know that pole dancing is a legitimate fitness pursuit, most people still refer to it as 'stripping class,'" said the Maui, Hawaii resident, who has never worked as a exotic dancer and does not allow nudity in her classes. "I was kind of worried about the social stigma. I didn't want to appear unprofessional."

Despite her discretion, it didn't take long before Furgiuele's co-workers found out.

"One of my student's cousins was my office manager," she said. From there, it was only a matter of minutes before her evening occupation was laid bare before the entire office.

"After a thorough round of teasing and a few moderately inappropriate comments, it's mostly smoothed out at my day job," Furgiuele said. "I'm glad everyone knew me as a person before they knew my 'other profession.' I'm not sure they would have been so understanding had they thought of me as a pole dancer first."

According to a January survey conducted by The Daily Beast, 23 percent of those polled have more than one paying job. Some said their second job was a hobby that had morphed into a money-making operation. Others said they needed the extra income.

So does the fact that we've become a nation of cash-strapped moonlighters mean that your employer will support your after-hours vocation? Or could fessing up that you've been serving cocktails, driving a limo or designing canine outerwear on the side jeopardize your reputation, or worse, your day job?

The short answer is, it depends.

Spilling the Beans About Second Jobs

"Moonlighting is sort of the American way," said employment attorney John Robinson of the Florida law firm Fowler White Boggs. "It only becomes a problem if it interferes with your primary job."

Obviously, running a side business from your cubicle is a no-no. Ditto for stealing your employer's customers or showing up to work exhausted because you've been burning the midnight oil at your other gig.

Jeannie, a business development administrator at a San Diego construction company, had these golden rules in mind when seeking part-time work in October once business got slow. Her side gig? Working for a children's birthday party entertainment company on weekends ("I've been a clown, an elf, a fairy, a princess and a pop star," she said).

Because her part-time job didn't affect her Monday through Friday work, she decided to come clean with her employer right away.

"I figured it was better to explain myself and make light of the situation on my own terms," said Jeannie, who didn't want her last name mentioned. "My worst nightmare would be to show up at a co-worker's house for their kid's birthday party dressed as a clown or fairy."

The reaction at her office?

"People here love it -- they're always asking about my parties," Jeannie said. "I think people are more understanding of side gigs now than they would have been a few years ago. People have even said it's admirable that I'm doing what I need to do to make sure I can make my house payment and have money saved up for emergencies."

Avoiding a Conflict of Interest

Of course, not all moonlighting gigs are created equal, reminded Robinson.

"If you're going to be up there naked and dancing on stage and you work for a church, that's a problem," he said.

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