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'Moonlighting' and the Law

Cliff Ennico on

"I am a full-time employee at a large tech company.

"My son, who lives in another state, wants to start a small consulting business. He will need my personal expertise in servicing his clients, because I have more knowledge of the technology than he has. He wants to set up a limited liability company for this business and give me a one-third ownership stake in exchange for my help.

When I was first employed, I signed a whole bunch of agreements that, of course, I can't find right now. I'm afraid that if I ask my HR department for copies, it will put them on notice that I'm planning to do some stuff on the side.

I really want to help my son succeed, and after I retire in a few years it will be nice to have something to do that will bring in revenue.

But I can't afford to lose my job. Any advice for someone in my situation?"

It used to be that once you were employed by a big company, you could count on the job for life, with a gold watch waiting for you when you retired.

 

Not anymore.

There aren't any hard-and-fast numbers on this, but I would have to bet that in a typical large corporation, 10% to 20% of employees are either doing some moonlighting on the side or are looking to do so, as a hedge against getting laid off.

Your desire to help your son is admirable, but you will need to "protect your rear" and be very careful before you commit to doing so.

When you take on a consulting project with your son, the client will want you to sign an agreement saying your involvement will not breach or violate any other agreement you may have signed. Without even looking, I can tell you that when you were first employed, you probably signed one or more of the following agreements:

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