“Can having a business website ‘on the side’ be reason for termination?”

Question: I was relieved from my job today for no reason, only to find out it was because I have a website to start a business of my own on the side.

There is no conflict of interest between my website and what was my position.

What rights do I have? 

         Grapevine, Texas

Answer: S.E., your rights in this situation, if you have any, depend on a few different factors.

First, some background: Generally, employers can terminate their employment relations with an employee for any reason – no matter how trivial, or even nonsensical – so long as it is not a legally prohibited reason, such as illegal discrimination, illegal retaliation, violation of a law, or breach of a contract.

While that may seem unfair, most people find it pretty fair, because employees can do the same thing: terminate their employment relations with their employer for any reason – so long as it does not violate a contract to do so.

All states have laws prohibiting firing employees because they engage in religious activities outside of work. And there are some states that have laws protecting employees from being fired for engaging in “social activities,” such as membership in charitable or civic organizations. But I don’t think I know of any state that has any laws protecting employees from being fired for engaging in business activities. In my experience, the reason employers don’t like their employees having “side” businesses is that they think it will distract them from their “day jobs.”

So, it would seem to me that, unless (a) you had signed a contract that permitted you to engage in your side business, (b) you were specifically told you could engage in your side business  without being terminated for doing so, or (c) your side business was part of your religious practices, or necessary for your ethnic identity, then you probably don’t have any “rights” to fight back.

For those who want to do “Side Work” without a problem arising, we offer a “Model Memo Requesting Consent to Doing Side Work on Your Own Time.” It offers “What to Say, How to Say It.™” To get your copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly! 

Wish I had better news, but I don’t. I do hope that your new business might be up and running soon, as I believe self-employment can be a very positive and rewarding experience.

Thanks for writing in.

Best, Al Sklover

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© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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