my company won’t let me DJ on the weekends — and refuses to say why

A reader writes:

My employer enforces a moonlighting policy whereby employees are required to obtain permission from an HR manager before they can work a second job. The policy does not specify what is permissible and what is not, only that the employer may deny concurrent employment if they deem it to be incompatible with the employee’s duties.

I have recently been asked to DJ regularly at a night club Saturday nights from 9 pm to 3 am. I have DJ’ed throughout college and I even made it my regular gig for a couple of years following graduation. However, life happened so I got a regular salaried job in finance. When the opportunity came to DJ again, I just couldn’t resist.

Being aware of my employer’s moonlighting policy, I immediately asked an HR manager permission to work my weekend gig. A day later, she came back with a negative answer. Naturally, I asked for an explanation. She contended that permission to work concurrent jobs is discretionary and that HR may refuse without any justification. I found her answer to be strange if not contrived. Mind you, my employer is publicly traded corporation with over 50,000 employees nationwide.

My regular duties are from Monday to Friday from 8 am to approximately 6 pm. I sometimes work at home but no more than five hours per week. I am not required to be available on weekends. Travelling is not a job requirement. The owners of the night club that asked me to DJ have a clean record and have been in business for the last 30 years.

What do you think? Does my employer owe me at least an explanation as to why they deem my gig to be incompatible with my duties? Is it even legal for them to deny me an explanation? How should I approach my employer if I chose to pursue further explanations?

That’s ridiculous. Your employer is being asinine.

You’re talking about DJ’ing — a totally different type of work than your regular job — during weekend hours that have no overlap with your regular work.

They have zero moral or logical standing to tell you no. And it’s particularly obnoxious that they’ve flatly refused to give you a reason.

When an employer is interfering with an employee’s out-of-work life in this way, they at least owe you an explanation of where they’re coming from. Their “we don’t need to give you a reason” stance is bizarre; it’s practically designed to piss you off and send you running into the arms of a competitor.

I also wonder if this may have come from a low-level HR person who isn’t skilled enough to realize that “we can do this” doesn’t mean “we should do this” or that there are better ways to deliver unwelcome news. So you might have better luck going over her head, pointing out that the way she responded to you was unnecessarily adversarial.

As for the legality of all this, I talked with employment lawyer Donna Ballman, author of the excellent book Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired, who said:

There’s no federal law against banning moonlighting (i.e., having a second job), and many employers put such a ban in their employment agreements. Working for a competitor is almost always a no-no, even if you don’t have a noncompete agreement. It’s just too risky because the employee will be accused of passing trade secrets, breaching confidentiality, or violating fiduciary duties to the employer. As to non-competing jobs, employers can usually ban those too. Employers will say that they ban them to avoid conflict of interest, to make sure the employee is focusing on their primary job, to prevent workplace accidents due to lack of sleep, to make sure the employee is available to work overtime or different shifts, and to prevent employees from using their resources for another job. However, most employees think they should be able to do what they want in their spare time. Unfortunately, with at-will employment in every state but Montana, employers can fire for any reason or no reason at all, with some exceptions.

I don’t know of any specific state law on moonlighting. However, some states ban firings for off-duty legal activities. California, Colorado, and North Dakota have such laws, so a second job that doesn’t interfere with their primary job is probably protected absent a contract saying otherwise in those states. If the job is with a political party or candidate, many states prohibit firings for political activities, so that would be an exception in many states.

I’ve known employees who were fired for merely registering a corporate name without doing anything to actually start a business, so I’d recommend caution if an employee is even thinking about a second job or starting a side business. When in doubt, ask and get written permission to be safe. Look at the handbook and any employment agreement, specifically regarding conflict of interest or devoting 100% of time to the one job. If you’re like most Americans who can be fired if their boss is in a bad mood, it’s better to be safe and CYA than be sorry.

But she also added:

If enforcement is truly arbitrary, they should see if there is a pattern of treating others differently based upon race, age, sex, national origin or other protected status. If so, there might be a viable discrimination issue.

So there’s your answer on the legal part of this. If you’re wondering how this can be legal (outside the three states Donna mentioned) since this is so obviously not your employer’s business, the way employment law works in the U.S. is that there doesn’t need to be a law specifically allowing employers to do X. As long as no law specifically prohibits X, it’s legal for them to do it (with the usual exceptions around discrimination, etc.).

But I’d like to see you escalate this at your company at least to get an explanation, if nothing else. It’s BS.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 410 comments… read them below }

  1. Czhorat*

    “We can for any reason” should not mean “we will for no reason”.

    This isn’t a reason to leave the job in and of itself, but arbitrary enforcement of a rule in a case which would cause your employer no harm is a very bad look; it makes me wonder if there are any other ways in which they’d arbitrarily harm or limit you.

    1. irene adler*

      Like having to procure their permission to start a family.
      After all, they have a stake here, as they most likely are footing the bill for insurance coverage for said family.


      1. EinJungerLudendorff*

        You say that, but I could totally see a lot of companies and organizations pull that nonsense.

        Knowing how exploitative many companies are, and the stigma’s against pregnancy and parenthood (especially against women), it doesn’t actually seem like much of a jump…

        1. Nobody Here by That Name*

          It wasn’t pregnancy but the company I worked for refused to cover spouses if the spouse could get their own insurance after one employee’s wife had cancer. I sat in meetings while execs talked about the high costs of her cancer coverage as though she’d deliberately gotten it to swindle the company out of insurance money.

          1. Antilles*

            That’s fairly common for companies to only allow a spouse to get covered IF they are not eligible for health insurance through their company.

          2. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

            Something similar happened at my first, large church employer. An employee at the attached school cost them a lot due to her insurance needs – she had some kind of expensive, intensive condition – and it really irritated them.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        I get the joke but the thing is, OP already has the right to party.

        OP could spend every Saturday night at that same club as a customer dancing, getting drunk, getting laid, whatever else people do at clubs, and the company apparently would have nothing to say about it. So partying in the club is totally fine, but gods forbid he should, you know, NOT do any of that but get paid instead because that would be wrong.

  2. Goya de la Mancha*

    This is so weird. I mean, assuming your DJ name isn’t “DJ Jazzy Jason, Financial Advisor at Moneybags Co.”

    1. LadyL*

      It makes me think of the LW who’s boss denied her a day off because she was playing in a video game tournament, and boss had Opinions on video games.

      I wonder if the reason for this LW’s predicament is because the person deciding has a dim view of DJs and thinks that’s a valid enough reason to deny the LW.

      1. EmKay*

        I thought of that LW too. It’s the employer having Opinions about partying and drinking/drugs. Because every DJ is an alcoholic, drug addled party animal, doncha know.

        1. Airy*

          The Prime Minister of New Zealand also DJs when she can fit it in. That might be a fun example to whip out.

      2. Sloan Kittering*

        That’s what I thought too. They don’t think DJ-ing seems very “professional” and don’t like the late hours / club setting. They should have thought harder about what a denial would do to the morale for the employee.

      3. Working Mom Having It All*

        This seems weird at a huge company, though. Especially in HR, where unless it’s an extremely conservative and retrograde company, they presumably see all types coming through their systems. I work for a huge international company and we 100% have people working here who look like they probably DJ on the weekends.

        I guess it is possible that it’s just this one HR contact’s issue? All the more reason to push back and escalate.

    2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      That’s probably the sentiment behind it, though. “It looks bad for us if one of our employees is seen doing some ‘icky low class’ thing like DJing, so no.”

        1. YellowRose*

          How would they even know? Unless they attend the event their employee is DJing at…but then, what does that say about them?

          1. AnnaBananna*

            At least in SoCal, the majority of my clubbing peer group were all uber professionals (docs, lawyers, roughly 30 yrs old) with a ton of disposable income, which make networking with our DJ friends advantagous if you were a broker of any kind. And all of our good DJ friends were 100% sober while working. Beat matching while hammered is actually pretty hard.

            Short sided judgemental idiot, that one.

    3. wb*

      i was actually just thinking maybe its time to adopt the DJ In A Mask conceit. granted, this is a bit of a counterpoint to the more-advisable CYA route.

      register an llc for doing business, go deadmau5/daft punk yourself up, stick it to the man. your non-work time spent on non-work matters is in no way appropriate for your employer to dictate. so unless your large corporate employer is in the party production business, its literally none of theirs. dont tell them.

      but i do realize that this particular style of ‘rules enforced purely for the purpose of enforcing rules on those below will be flatly ignored’ isnt for everyone. or necessarily advisable. I’m mostly joking. mostly.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Since HR probably has all the details of the gig like the club name, address and date, be very cautious if you do this!

        1. Tequila Mockingbird*

          You really think HR would send a spy to a nightclub on Saturday night? For what reason – to ensure their employee WASN’T doing a particular thing on their off-hours?

          And if they did send a spy, that’s the cue OP needs to leave this job. Intrusiveness overload.

    4. Michelle*

      I like to think the HP person parties at that club and doesn’t want Jason to see them partying.

      1. valentine*

        The request is how HR found out they didn’t get the gig.

        Not giving a reason is a great way to hide discrimination. I absolutely loathe a policy recitation instead of an answer. We’re having the interaction because I know the policy.

  3. yikes*

    This moonlighting rule seems unnecessarily cruel. Depending on someone’s financial situation, they may have to take another gig to support themselves, even if they are paid a reasonable salary. Jeez, things happen, like medical bills and such! At the very least this is weird, and at the most it is damaging to the employee. Even if DJing is more of a hobby than a financial side gig, your employer shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying life outside the office, unless it’s illegal.

    What is up with these corporations!? I swear the next letter is going to say someone’s boss LITERALLY required they hand over their first-born. Oy!

    1. I should be working*

      If my workplace had a policy like this, I’d be livid. You can tear my dog walking side hustle from my cold, dead hands.

        1. LapisLazuli*

          If your employee is talking about trade secrets to poodles, I think you have a whole other issue besides the fact that the poodle is wearing a wire ;)

            1. AKchic*

              Naw… them lab/hound mixes are the real threat. Those soulful eyes and sneaky tongues. They aren’t just stealing unattended food, y’know. They are 100% taking any information you’ve got laying around. And those big, soft ears are perfect for overhearing trade secrets, too.

        2. Brandy*

          I work from home getting medical records from hospitals, redacting and sending to insurance companies for payment. I have a picture of my cat Bob, sitting in front of the monitor. I snapped it before I made him get down. I showed my boss “I call this HIPPA Violation” at the company picnic. Coworkers were dying.

            1. MayLou*

              Hi, I’m Particularly Petty About Autocorrect.

              If anyone is insider trading or selling secrets, it’s cats. They’re nature’s spies.

      1. Tequila Mockingbird*

        FWIW, I’ve worked at stuffy office jobs that had no-moonlighting policies, but I’ve always had a side hustle anyway. Don’t ask, don’t tell. If the two jobs are in unrelated industries and no potential for conflicts of interest, then I don’t feel obligated to ask permission for whatever I do on the weekends.

        1. I should be working*

          Word. What I do in my private time is up to me, provided it’s not hurting the company or whatever.

        2. Working Mom Having It All*

          Yeah, this DJ gig, especially, really screams for a don’t ask don’t tell approach. Like… how are they even going to know?

          1. AnnaBananna*

            Unfortunately, because OP already asked permission, they’re going to have to go forward and fight it by the book, but yes normally I would totally agree with this. Unless they’re in similar industries, there is no reason to let them know.

            1. Patty Mayonnaise*

              That’s what so frustrating about this situation! OP did the right thing by asking in advance, and HR shut it down – why would OP or anyone else ever ask in advance again?

    2. Renata Ricotta*

      It’s particularly silly and arbitrary in this case because the potential impact to the business (vanishingly close to zero, I can only come up with pretty extreme and implausible hypotheticals) is LESS than if the OP were just attending said nightclubs from 9 pm to 3 am on Saturdays as a patron, which they would have no standing to push back on. I say “less” because patrons are more likely to drink a lot/have some sort of lasting effects that MIGHT in extreme circumstances last until Monday morning, whereas DJs and other people working there will be sober or taking it easier in order to fulfill their job requirements.

      1. E*

        Exactly. DJ is busy being DJ the whole night. The patrons are the one that are generally the biggest messes exiting the club at closing time.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yup. This sounds like the HR person just has a chip on their shoulder about DJ’ing and what they think happens at nightclubs.

      3. Snowglobe*

        As someone who works in finance, I can come up with some not-too-implausible scenarios, such as the bar or it’s owners are clients, and the LW’s day job involves a extending credit(business loans). However, if it was something like that, there is no reason not to explain the reason.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Could there be a confidentiality thing going on? (I don’t know much about finance, but this is common in law). Like, the bar is their client *and* they prefer to keep the relationship private? You’d think OP would know that though.

          1. LovecraftInDC*

            Yeah, I work in banking, and there are very specific policies that you can’t take a job with someone who is a customer of the bank. Since banks these days are about 60% IT or back-end operations, it’s a pretty silly policy.

        2. Not Me*

          I was thinking the same thing. There could be legitimate reasons why the company considers it a conflict of interest and cannot tell LW due to confidentiality. They could at least tell him it’s due to their confidentiality policy though.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            If LW’s employer is in legitimate business with the club, there’s no reason to not tell, and any conflict of interest is a real stretch. Since LW talks about the club owners being legit, I’m going Occam on this and saying it’s just one HR person being a jerk, not a complex web of business secrets.

            1. Not Me*

              There are plenty of reasons why a legitimate company may have a confidentiality clause with a legitimate client.

              LW says she’s in finance, but that could be a finance department in a larger company that has a multitude of clients in different industries. There’s so much missing info here, it’s impossible to dismiss the reasonable situations where a conflict of interest could exist.

              1. Sloan Kittering*

                Still, there are ways that the company could have better communicated that situation, which would have helped OP understand that the company wasn’t being dismissive and careless.

                1. Not Me*

                  Oh, I 100% agree on that point. But suggesting there’s no reason for a legitimate company to have a conflict of interest is pretty ridiculous.

              2. Jules the 3rd*

                Ok, I am not in finance, so I’ll believe you. It just seems truly weird that a company could not say, ‘that club is a client of ours’ or ‘that club is a potential conflict of interest’ to an employee. I can understand ‘can’t tell you details’ confidentiality but not pure stonewalling about a legitimate business relationship.

      4. AnnaBananna*

        Also, my DJ friends were all paid in cash, so…OP could still get away with it. It’s not like nightclub owners keep super thorough books.

    3. OlympiasEpiriot*

      It only just occurred to me (and this is odd because I’m old and have sometimes worked multiple jobs) that this could be applied to a situation where someone has a full-time job but there’s a temporary crisis in a family that owns a business and they help out in their off hours. I know a lot of families where this kind of thing happens, especially if the business is related to food or catering. If it is a corporate 9-5 weekday job, getting behind the counter at a deli on a busy Saturday morning shouldn’t be something that can get you fired. (for example.)

      Yeah, I’ll bet someone has capital “o” Opinions on DJs and possibly even dancing.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Capital “o” Opinions on the dangers of dance *clubs* — by an HR person who can’t see that her assumptions of dangerous behavior are racist stereotypes. OP could test this by putting in a request to work the same hours at a polka party or Swing dance.
        Admittedly I’m extrapolating from the way a white rap lover I used to know was bullied. He escaped it by moving to a metropolitan area, still has his black & Latino friends, still loves his music.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m not sure this is racially driven, yet? I’ve found folks with assumptions about nightclubs feel that way regardless of the racial composition of the clientele.

          1. Zennish*

            This…My first thought was that the HR person may be having delusions of all night drink and drug fueled partying, and having a pearl-clutching reaction.

          2. Ramanon*

            Are you sure they’re actually registering the racial composition of the clientele, though? I’ve known people that have similar issues with assumptions of dangerous behavior being based on racist stereotypes who are dead certain that Eminem is black and Jimi Hendrix is white, even though a single google images search would prove them massively wrong (and even though they’ve probably seen images proving them wrong before!). It’s actually impressive, in a terrifying way.

      2. Gumby*

        The dangers of dancing have long been recognized:

        Headin’ for the dance at the Armory!
        Libertine men and Scarlet women!
        And Rag-time, shameless music
        That’ll grab your son and your daughter
        With the arms of a jungle animal instinct!

        1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

          And now you have that song stuck in my head.

          (…and if so, my friends, WE’VE GOT TROUBLE!)

    4. Erin*

      I started teaching swim lessons on the weekends because I was not making enough money at my 9-5 job (which had AMAZING benefits and was generally a great place to work…paycheck aside). Most employers have been impressed that I teach swimming, but I definitely think there’s a difference in some employers’ minds of my teaching swim lessons Saturday mornings and someone else DJ-ing at a club into the wee hours of Sunday morning.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I am a part-time, freelance classical musician. I wonder if this company would be okay with that? Do they have a thing against DJs in particular, rock musicians on the whole (the ones with the negative reputation; though I will point out that classical musicians aren’t all angels either), or all musicians?

        1. valentine*

          into the wee hours of Sunday morning.
          Put this way, I’m wondering if there’s a Christian bent here. OP, if HR or your neighbors in general engage in a lot of Christian church talk and you’re the odd one out, that may be your answer.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            I’ve always suspected that church services are on Sunday morning to work against enjoying music and dancing on Saturday night.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              That’s actually backwards, at least in the US. People came in from the farms on Saturday to get supplies and then go to church on Sunday. Hired hands would ride in with the wagons, load supplies, go spend their weekly paychecks, maybe go to church, then ride back to the farm.

              In the US, that’s also why elections are on a Tuesday, so that people can come in from the farm for church, spend Monday talking about issues / candidates, then vote.

      2. hermit crab*

        People can have strong reputation-related opinions about pretty much anything, though. One employer’s “how community-minded of Erin to teach swimming lessons!” might be another employer’s “how skeevy of Erin to get a job where’s she’s half-naked in public!” (That’s actually a true story from my county — there was a complaint made against the swimming instructors because they were wearing “revealing clothing,” aka county-issued swimsuits, while in contact with children.)

          1. hermit crab*

            Primarily the male instructors, actually! (Because they were topless and gasp! someone’s bare torso was next to a child.) The county didn’t take it seriously, but I think it’s an interesting example of how something that most people consider to be so completely innocent can still be taken in a different direction. I mean, my side gig is working circulation at the public library — what if I am seen checking out a book that my primary employer doesn’t agree with? Luckily they don’t care, but I feel like it shouldn’t depend on luck.

            1. Swim Instructor*

              We had a patron complain about the male swim instructors at the school I managed! She thought it was scandalous that were topless, and offered to by everyone scuba suits (she had no idea there was a difference in swim suits and scuba suits)! We were not sad to lose her as a patron!

              1. LovecraftInDC*

                If she’s handing out wetsuits, I’d happily take one. Better yet, convince her to buy drysuits, for which you obviously need nitrox, tanks, and top of the line dive computers, and start a new set of classes.

        1. Evan Þ.*

          How’d the county respond?

          When I was a kid, my mom was once paranoid about the sun and got me a whole-body-covering swimsuit, so there’d at least theoretically be that solution – though it’d still be a huge overreaction from the county!

      3. TeapotNinja*

        I frequently stay up into way past midnight on weekdays and Sundays, because I have young children and that’s the only time I have for myself and things I want to do.

        None of my employer’s business UNLESS it negatively affect my work (and they notice, *wink*).

    5. Kimmybear*

      What if your main job is ordering office supplies and the side gig is selling office supplies? Isn’t that a conflict of interest? My company has similar rules about disclosing side gigs but it’s generally pretty open and flexible. I know several people that walk dogs, teach yoga, and drive Uber/Lyft.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        If that were the case, it would be obvious to the LW why it’s a conflict of interest, and if not, HR should be willing and able to explain.

    6. Nobody Here by That Name*

      Yeah, my company did a severe crackdown on anyone with a “side hustle.” It was funny how the concept of making sure people were paid well enough to not need a second job never came up as a possible solution.

    7. RUKiddingMe*

      “What is up with these corporations!?”
      They think they own you 24/7. It’s not just corporations either…

    8. Normally a Lurker*

      eh – I work in Finance. Most finical companies have it. Heck, anything that has to do with the FEC has it.

      It’s mostly used (at good companies) as a CYA about insider trading.

      For instance, I work at a hedge fund AND i am a private tutor on nights and weekend for school age kids. No one cares. But it’s in my file in case it comes up in an FEC Insider Trading case. In fact, there are a LOT of us who have side hussles. As long as the side hussle has ZERO to do with finance, like tutors, acting, sports instructing, dog walking… etc – no one cares. But again, it’s in our file.

      That said, I have no idea what the objection would be to be a DJ though. At my company, that would DEF fall into “We don’t care, but please sign this paper for your file saying you asked us and you also work here and that you won’t use company resources at your other job” runner stamp.

    9. MissDisplaced*

      Personally, I’ve decided to never tell my workplace or HR anything.
      And if I were the OP, I would just do the DJ gig anyway and not tell them you’re doing it. Because if OP escalates this and wants an answer, then suddenly you’re branded a troublemaker. Been there. Done that.

      Honestly, what OP does on a Saturday night is OP’s business.

    10. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I actually did quit a job early in my career because they denied my request for secondary employment. I couldn’t afford my bills on my part time salary and I wanted to teach music lessons on the side to make a little extra money. If they’d said yes, I could have afforded to stay at that job a while longer. But since they said no, I found a better job and left.

  4. Detective Amy Santiago*

    My first question is if this policy includes MLMs.

    LW – this is definitely weird and I think it’s probably worth asking for additional info, but proceed with caution because unless you’re in Montana, you’re in an At-Will state and could be terminated if you irritate the wrong person.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Also, do you know if any of your colleagues are currently moonlighting in any positions?

    2. 8DaysAWeek*

      This is what I came to ask too.
      My question to the OP is how many people in the office have MLM jobs and I would also bet that a lot of them are doing that work during their work day (in my experience, a lot of people do this during their working hours).

      I agree with Alison: ask if you can speak to a supervisor to get more clarity on the situation.

      If they still deny you, get a helmet like Daft Punk and go incognito :P

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I like drama llama.
          (Now for a laugh, type “llama hat” and “teapot hat” into Google images…)

        2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          Potential names for your incognito DJ gig:

          DJ Drama Llama Wakeen
          MC Toxic Boss Cersei
          MixMaster Fergus

      1. De Minimis*

        I know of at least one DJ who was fairly successful and I believe actually had his DJ name registered. He ended up moving out of the country and sold the rights to use the name to a successor, similar to selling a business.
        Maybe at the very least, the OP could just operate under an alias [probably does already] and the employer might not know any better.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yes, it’s a registered brand! You can sell or bury them as you please.

          They do this in wrestling and other entertainment segments.

    3. Renata Ricotta*

      True as a technical matter, but most people at companies like the OP’s (big corporate institution) are not really in danger of actual firing or anything like that from appealing a front-line HR decision to the next person up the chain. If they were, it would be a pretty toxic environment and poorly run company (which is possible, but I don’t think it should discourage most people from escalating something like this).

    4. A*

      YES! Everywhere I’ve worked that enforces the moonlighting clause… has not extended it to MLMs. In some small way I find this satisfactory because it means it isn’t recognized as a “real job”, but still annoying. If I can’t work for non-competitor tea pot company after hours, Karen shouldn’t be able to hawk her LuluPamperedLipScentsy either.

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        uggghhhhhhh honestly the only reason I can see for a moonlighting clause (aside from certain highly specific non-compete type situations) is to get MLMs out of the office.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      California, too, for side hustles that are unrelated to the primary job. :) (We’re at-will, but we’re also very laissez-faire about workers’ rights, including the ability to work at multiple places without interference.)

    6. Devil Fish*

      “unless you’re in Montana”

      I know there’s a law but there is effectively no difference in how firings work here vs any other state I’ve lived in, especially when it comes to the low level (mostly customer service) jobs that treat people like they’re disposable.

      Your boss can’t legally fire you on a whim here … but I’ve never worked for anyone unstable enough to do that anywhere else either: they just write you up 3 times on manufactured bullshit (“insubordination” if there’s no real complaint) and then you’re done. This has been the process everywhere I’ve worked because no one wants to deal with a wrongful termination/discrimination suit, so anyone who’s smart/paranoid has their paperwork in order.

    1. Yina*

      Given what LW says, I don’t think so. If they were say, in IT, where they might be on call all the time, then yes. Not someone who works a daily, set schedule and then isn’t “on” any other time.

      My guess is that the HR lady has a negative bias against DJing.

      I’d also not be one whit surprised if HR lady is white and has implicit racial bias against DJing.

      I have actually seen this before, but from the hiring side. Candidate was tanked bc their hobby was DJing at step shows. Candidate was white, btw, but had a black wife who was a sorority alum and very much into strolling, stepping, and dancing.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        DJs come in all colors, but HR lady may not realize that. The DJs in my music scene are mostly Latinx and white.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        On teading this rather than RBF, my facial expression is “actively pissed off at that shit” face. (APOATSF)

      3. Silence Will Fall*

        I work in IT and I have solid side hustle. I just have to make sure not to schedule my side hustle during my on-call rotations or get someone to switch with me.

      4. Out of Office*

        “I’d also not be one whit surprised if HR lady is white and has implicit racial bias against DJing.”

        Please don’t spread this nonsensical thinking. Some of us old white ladies enjoy DJing and all kinds of entertainment that may appear mismatched to type.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Don’t forget DJ Nana from that one E-trade commercial! (those were some boss rings she had, too).

          1. Former Employee*

            I loved that commercial, because it was clever and because of DJ Nana.

            Someone should develop a show that’s a cross between “Golden Girls” and that commercial. Instead of all retirees, it would be a multi-generational show where the Boomer aged parent would be the rules person and the kids (teens and older) and DJ Nana would be the rebels.

    2. Mainely Professional*

      I was wondering the same thing, even though the OP doesn’t work weekends like at all ever, the badly applied policy might be “Well, we can’t have someone working another job where they’re up all night on Saturdays.”

      Also…nice username.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        That would be stupid policy/reason. I mean they could stay up all Saturday night no matter what they are doing. Companies need to stop 1) being dictators and 2) paternalistic.

    3. Sloan Kittering*

      I thought they didn’t want OP staying up till 3AM and figured that would hurt his/her ability to be in bright eyed and bushytailed at their office job. But they should have given OP the chance to prove it wasn’t an issue before bringing down the hammer, if that was the case.

      1. valentine*

        figured that would hurt his/her ability to be in bright eyed and bushytailed at their office job
        This is worse than “Eating will spoil your appetite.” If 29 hours isn’t enough, HR has a serious issue (apart from being a jerk).

      2. Michaela Westen*

        They don’t understand that a person who is up/out all night on Saturday sleeps on Sunday and is fine on Monday morning… duh…

  5. Miss Fisher*

    My company has this policy, but I have never known anyone who actually been denied work. I think it is more or less for say, I work with super secret info and moonlight at a similar position where my insider knowledge could cause a conflict.

    You might just have an HR person who strongly objects to clubs and sees an employee of your org working at one being a negative view of your company.

    1. Future Homesteader*

      This is the only thing I can think of that even makes “sense.” Someone has some weird moral issue with late nights and dancing. Which is still ridiculous.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. I was in the military; they have this policy for good reason. I see nothing inherently wrong with having such a policy. I can understand situation where the LW’s might ban different second jobs, but this is not one of them.

      If the LW really wants to do this, I recommend pursuing further perhaps through his boss/supervisor rather than HR and if that comes to nothing start job hunting if the DJ gig is that important to him.

      1. Artemesia*

        If I were the OP I would sit down with the head of HR and my own supervisor. If that doesn’t fix this then without fanfare I would start looking for a new job. Surely someone with their expertise is likely to be in high demand.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          This was my first thought: if the OP gets along really well with their supervisor, maybe ask them for advice. They might know someone in HR (other than the person who turned down the OP), and can get an idea of what’s really going on there. Because this is weird and wrong, and knowing how and why it’s happening would really help the OP figure out how to approach it.

          1. LovecraftInDC*

            If this was one of my employees, I would definitely be escalating it to the HR person’s manager. It’s fine to have a policy like this, but an explanation is absolutely valid. It’s important to set consistent standards, and I’d want to know what the specific issue they had with it was.

            But mostly I’d want to escalate it because I’m pretty sure the decision would get reversed by the HR person’s boss, unless the company is super conservative.

      2. Blue*

        Yes, if the boss is reasonable, I’d absolutely raise it with them. I’m pretty confident the bosses I’ve had would find this ridiculous and intervene on my behalf, or at least support me in pushing back with HR. If that may be the case here, it’s a conversation worth having.

      3. Michaela Westen*

        Even if the DJ gig isn’t that important to him, IMHO it’s not a good idea to work long-term for an employer that’s so intrusive and controlling. They’re bound to make some other unreasonably personal demand at some point.

      4. MissDisplaced*

        I’d just do the DJ gig and let the company pound sand. It’s NOT THEIR BUSINESS. No conflicts. No security risk. Outside of work hours. The more you tell them/try to get them to consider and be reasonable, the bigger a deal it will be. Unfortunately, their mind is made up.
        If they’re going to be petty and actually spy on you at clubs… then you have a whole other problem of serious overreach.

    3. Uncle Bob*

      It’s much simpler than that. It’s just so much easier to say no. Saying no won’t get the HR person fired and with 50k employees HR could care less if they hurt OPs feelings on this.

      1. Samwise*

        I agree. Much less likely that someone has Footloose Syndrome, than that “no” is easy. And “Yes” may require additional paperwork on the HR person’s part.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Yeah, I work a lot with lawyers and they’re always super conservative with everything. NO is the easiest and safest answer in most cases, so they’re almost always going to do that rather than take a risk and have to manage for consequences. It bums me out at my job all the time.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Huh. See, I am a lawyer, and super conservative does not translate to “no” being the safest answer. Especially when it is something like this – where the company allows A Thing, with permission. The safest thing for a moonlighting policy is to say *yes* unless you can come up with a very specific and compelling work-related reason, such as the work is for a competitor or a client. Arbitrary spewing of “no” is not safe.

            1. LovecraftInDC*

              Yes, I agree. Because eventually, an HR person is going to say yes to a DJ position, and oh look, there’s a disparity in the gender/sexuality/race/etc between the yes and the no. And hey look, as a result of having very vague guidelines, there’s also racial disparities in the approvals of some other positions.

              From a non-lawyer, but compliance standpoint, I would definitely go with a default of yes, with a policy like you mentioned, and possibly a list of prohibited jobs. That way any legal challenge in the future can easily be met with either ‘here is the information on the business’s relationship to us’ or ‘here is the list of prohibited jobs’.

          2. Working Mom Having It All*

            Ehhhhh, actually I work with lawyers (in-house counsel/business affairs) and this is something we deal with on a daily basis. The goal is always to find middle ground, or find a way to a yes, rather than wield NO as a weapon. Especially just to make your job easier or avoid some paperwork.

            Sometimes the answer has to be no, because we just can’t let the talent plug their cannabis brand on camera on a children’s show. But assuming there is a way forward, we will work together to figure out what that looks like.

      2. Helena*

        It could very well be the HR equivalent of the infamous anti-guacamole travel reimbursement guy.

    4. WellRed*

      Right? OP do you work in “Footloose” county? Please escalate, polish up your resume and report back.

    5. kittymommy*

      Mine has it as well. I used to moonlight as an alcohol/drink tester (the type who set up in stores and restaurants to promote a new product) when I was in a previous department and our HR Director didn’t have a problem with it (they were also my boss). I could see some employees, depending upon their department, having this approval denied, but it’s rather rare.

    6. A*

      Agreed. My first thought was it might be coming from someone that is out of touch with nightlife to the extent of assuming all ‘clubs’ are like what you see in the movies etc.

    7. Adalind*

      Agreed! I always thought it was more to prevent working for a competitor or if it interfered with your hours.

      I’ve worked multiple jobs most of my life and have never had a problem. Once in a while I’d even ask job #2 if I could stay at job #1 if they were particularly desperate (only happened a couple times when I knew job #2 was slow). Now I have a FT job and work occasional Saturdays and most people want to hear alllll about my weekend job (it’s at a veterinarian which is more exciting than office work I guess haha). Also, my brother in law is a DJ and I think his office coworkers have the same view – “NEAT let me ask you many questions about it!”

      So yeah, this is really weird to me to just arbitrarily deny it.

  6. The Free Huey*

    Today I learned why DJs spin under a pseduonym.
    “Make some Nooiissee! My name is John Smith and you can catch me here next Saturday night spinning the hottest jams, and Monday through Friday, normal business hours, at Acme Corp, sorting through spreadsheeeeeets! Don’t tell my boss though.”

    1. PhyllisB*

      I did temp receptionist work at a radio station for a while, and that’s when I learned that most of the DJ’s used a pseudonym. I got a phone call for one of them using his real name, and I told the caller we didn’t have an employee by that name. Someone overheard me and let me know who it was for. After that, I made them all tell me their real names and if I should put through calls that came for that name. (Luckily, person realized I was new and called back.)

  7. Spreadsheets and Books*

    Since 2010, I have operated a relatively successful freelance writing business on nights and weekends, bringing in anywhere from an extra $500-$1000 a week depending on how much effort I feel like investing. If I EVER encountered an employer who tried to shut that down, I would be beyond livid. My day job is in finance, not content marketing. This is part of the reason why I don’t mention writing at work – ever.

    It may sound like I’m a crappy employee, but I don’t think being told by HR to stop would actually make me stop. I’m a ghostwriter and I don’t write under my real name. That’s a die I’m willing to roll. Unfortunately for the LW, he’s likely already revealed where he plans to DJ and it wouldn’t be hard for someone to catch him.

    1. Mike C.*

      Nah, this doesn’t make you sound like a crappy employee. When some petty tyrant is going all out to try and control people, they don’t deserve to be told the truth or otherwise kept in the loop.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It doens’t make you sound like a crappy employee, it makes you sound like a human who lives a life outside of your full time job. Anyone who thinks differently is the odd-ball, imo.

      Years ago a boss told a friend to come to me for some side-work when their bookkeeper walked out [not because the business issues, personal issues, they were in a relationship, no affair or anything seedy, just a basic couple, she took over his books that he used to have done out of house, blah blah blah].

      I’ve held multiple jobs down at once, always making it clear to everyone because I don’t have a shady bone in my body. Nobody cares, they just thought I was a crazypants [workaholic, duh.] My old boss even told me she envisioned me doing this as my own business at some point and loved that I would do consulting jobs time to time.

      Nobody owns me just because they give me a paycheck. I have walked for a lot less. But again, this is why I don’t ef with mega corps, we don’t see eye to eye most of the time.

    3. Devil Fish*

      Samesies. Ghostwriting is good money and interesting work.

      If it’s outside business hours and uses a different skillset than my primary employment, I don’t see why I even have to tell them about it. If they want to tell me what I’m “allowed” to do 24/7, they can pay me an on-call wage or gtfo.

    4. Sloan Kittering*

      Yep, I had to fill out a “second job” form at work after something writing-related took off and I started earning side money. If they had denied me, I probably would have quit.

    5. AKchic*

      I have to get approval for moonlighting too. None have ever been approved because “what if we NEED you? You are supposed to be available for emergencies and overtime as needed!”
      Funny… because when we did have an actual statewide emergency where I assumed I’d actually be needed, I wasn’t called in. I wasn’t allowed more than a single hour of overtime (working through my lunch). In fact, I am routinely denied overtime because “oh, it’s not necessary” and so is everyone else because my boss wants to get a bigger bonus at the end of the year.
      I can volunteer all I want, but I am not allowed to take any paying job. It’s ridiculous.

    6. Mop*

      Please protect yourself to make sure your work doesn’t inadvertently become the property of your employer.

      1. 'Tis Me*

        In the UK that could only possibly be an issue if you were using work equipment or writing on work time. What you produce in your own time on your own computer is unequivocally yours.

        1. NACSACJACK*

          Our company handbook states whatever you create, no matter if its on your personal computer or your work laptop is owned by the company unless/until they sign off or let go their ownership. I dont know how enforceable that is, but if it is directly related to your job, I think it is.

      2. TardyTardis*

        Everyone in the office knew I worked on novels and short stories for part of my lunch. I did offer to bring in my laptop in case there was an issue of using a work computer, but the only thing that happened is that my boss’s eyes got a little wide when she snooped over my shoulder. But hey, she shouldn’t have been bugging me during my lunch hour anyway, right? (she always did, but never let me put down overtime for when she interrupted my lunch. One reason I was glad when she was no longer my supervisor…).

      3. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, I do some freelance writing on the side and have refused to pursue a job because they had a “we own everything you create no matter where, when, and what” clause. For entry-level temp scut work. F that noise.

    7. Isabel Kunkle*

      This. I write romance novels in my spare time. My last couple employers know, because once I got published, I put that on my resume (my day jobs involve writing/editing, so it’s relevant) but before that, I didn’t feel any obligation to tell people.

  8. Yina*

    Unless he’s DJ’ing exclusively white country artists at the suburban country club, I’d wonder if there’s not a racial undertone about DJing/implicit bias by the HR person.

    If you are DJing any type of music that’s primarily or heavily non-white artists, I would raise that issue and point out to the HR lady that this could read really, really badly for the company.

    1. CM*

      Racial bias based on denial of DJing sounds like a stretch to me.

      I wish this OP hadn’t asked in the first place — this definitely seems like a “forgiveness instead of permission” situation since there is no way his DJing could overlap with his job and a once-a-week gig isn’t exactly a second job. But since they did ask for permission, I feel like their choice is either to escalate within the company, or not do it.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I don’t see it as a stretch. I know someone whose (white) son was bullied hard for working as a rap DJ — not by the black kids in his town, but by the white ones who couldn’t understand why he wanted to hang out with the [epithets]. Seriously the bullies were yelling that “those guys are dangerous, you’re going to get yourself [killed in a gun fight]/[hooked on crack]/insert sterotype.” But it was the white kids who beat him up and vandalized his car. (Happily for justice, they did the vandalism at his house — right in line with the security camera his dad had installed after the first threat.)

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I’ve encountered people such as these before. They watch stereotyped violence on TV and think it’s real. They really believe it, they’re honestly scared. I hope at some point they look around and realize it’s not really like that.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I was thinking age more than race (stoopid millenials and their dance music!) but I think the answer is, as mentioned above, that it’s just easier to say no. HR doesn’t want to give a reason because there isn’t much of one.

        1. Devil Fish*

          It does tend to be a hobby of “kids these days” though (for any value of “kids” and “these days”). I’m trying to think of any small time DJs I personally know who are over 40 and I’m not coming up with any?

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Most DJ’s I know of do it as a part time gig and have a regular 9 to 5 job. There are not many places looking for DJ’s to work on a Monday or Wednesday at 10am. Even clubs that are open during the week often like to rotate DJ’s so it is not always the same DJ every single day.

          1. OhNo*

            I actually do know a couple older guys that are pro DJs in the EDM scene, so it’s not unheard of. They’re definitely the exception rather than the rule, though.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            I know 2 who have been djing in my middling-large Southern US city for the last 20 years. I’ve also seen fliers for 3 DJs whose names I don’t recognize (and so I’m assuming are newer) and 2 who I know are younger. And I mostly just check out the raves / techno / house / gay bars. I’d certainly believe there’s similar spread of years for the hip hop clubs in the area – I know at least 2 hip hop clubs have had longevity similar to the gay bars.

            I suspect the HR person is either just not thinking it through or is worried about drug consumption, and whether that prejudice is based on age or race doesn’t really matter.

        2. Alfonzo Mango*

          The explosion of EDM, house, techno, music festivals show that it’s embraced by more millenials and gen Z than any other generation though.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Dance has gone in / out of US fashion for decades, so most generations should have exposure to Rebellious Youth Dance Culture ™.

            Silents went to sock hops, Boomers went to discos. My memory of the evolution of EDM has raves starting with gen x in the mid-90s, when millenials were at most 15yo (assuming Mill started 1980). We’ve started to age out (ouch my knees), so millenials / Z are the main attendees now, but I still make it out a few times a year and I have gen x friends who go to burns / raves regularly. It’s really just the non-NYC US in the 80s that didn’t have much of a dance scene (Europe, esp England, had tons). It was much harder for me to find someplace to dance (pop / punk / techno / industrial) in college (late 80s, US South, uni with 20K students) than it was even 5 years later.

            Note: this is a white person’s experience. I think I recall that hip hop dance spaces were more common in the 80s than pop/punk/proto-techno dance spaces, but I would certainly believe someone else’s experience over my vague memory.

            20 20 20 4 hours to goooooo

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                You’re welcome! I might dance this one with my kid pretty regularly… bringing him up right
                (NPR / Sound Opinions did a nice show on them a couple of weeks ago)

                Nothing to do no where to go o o
                put me a wheelchair get me to the show
                hurry hurry hurry before I get too old
                I can’t control my fingers I can’t control my toes o o o o o oooooo

            1. TardyTardis*

              In the 1980’s, our part of the world divided between salsa and line dancing, though the Jaycees sponsored some dances for fundraisers (where I got my Madonna on). We also, even to this day, still have dances out at the fairgrounds.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                oh yeah line dancing, the single form of dance I can not handle. I watched some people do the electric slide once. I joined in for maybe two rounds. And then I got bored.

                Salsa – there were some places where you could do that in my area in the 80s, but mostly university or church based. I don’t recall commercial latin dance clubs until the 90s, and even there it was usually an ‘off night’ at the hip hop club (like Wednesdays). There’s three in town now, but I don’t recall off hand how long they’ve been around.

      1. Newington*

        I think the “stupid millennials and dance music” is hard to separate from (perhaps unconscious) racism. cf. Moral outrage about white kids getting into rock’n’roll in the ’60s.

        Whoever denied the request probably didn’t think “Ha ha, here’s a nice chance for me to do something racist!” but it’s seldom that clean cut.

    3. MicroManagered*

      I thought the same thing but wondered if it had something to do with the nature of the club? (Like if it’s a gay club or some form of adult entertainment?)

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        If HR has a problem with LW DJing at a gay or hip hop club, then LW needs to know that. It would be a total ‘wow’ moment for me, I would never trust that HR again. I suppose I could see society having a problem with an adult entertainment place, but that is… sub optimal.

  9. Mainely Professional*

    OP, talk to your supervisor and maybe your grandboss. Tell them what HR is saying, push politely for an explanation. Perhaps this really and truly has been enforced across your 50,000 employee company but, as others and Alison noted, it is unfair and insane.

  10. Zip Silver*

    Maybe I’m just ethically corrupt, but I wouldn’t have gone to HR to get permission in the first place. I certainly have never asked my company when I started doing Uber here and there.

    You can probably just do your DJ thing under a stage name and they’ll never even find out.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      I was coming to say the same. It’s too late now, of course, but this would be a “better to ask forgiveness than permission” kind of situation for me.

      Good luck, OP – let us know how it turns out!

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, in finance that would be an ethical concern. Permission for outside activities is a standard because of the possibility for conflict of interest, either actual or the appearance thereof.

      1. Snowglobe*

        Yep, in finance the possibility of conflict of interest is pretty serious, and a lot of people aren’t always aware of what might cause a conflict, which is why those companies require advance permission. Not asking first could lead to dismissal, even if the request itself would normally be acceptable.

        But they should still tell LW the reason.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Yeah, agreed. The company is badly mishandling this. But the number of people in this thread saying something like “oh, just don’t tell them!” or “do it in secret!” is giving me hives.

          1. OhNo*

            Seems like a difference in industry standards. In many fields, asking forgiveness rather than permission would be fine. But it sounds like finance has a very different, much stricter view of this sort of thing, if I’m reading that right?

            1. halfwolf*

              yes indeed! i also work in finance and the mere perception of impropriety can really tank you. the most extreme example would be a publicly disclosed SEC investigation (for something like insider trading); even if the SEC totally cleared you at the end, your reputation is shot, and you or your firm will always be associated with wrongdoing. i have had conversations with my compliance on the tiniest, slightest off-chance that something i’ve done maybe could possibly look sketchy if you squinted and turned it upside down.

            2. Ann Perkins*

              Yes, in financial planning services, industry regulations require associated persons to disclose and obtain approval for any outside employment OR activities that involve decision making authority (nonprofit Board president, trustee on trust accounts, etc.).

              I work in compliance in this area – these comments are giving me hives too. I really couldn’t care less if somebody DJs on the weekend and I would approve that as long as they’re not trying to commingle it. But if somebody were told no and then did it anyway I would push to terminate that person. It’s a big, big deal to willfully go against the rules on this.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            I get that areas like finance, military, national security, etc might have special circumstances warranting a close vetting.

            However, for the average office worker bee there isn’t going to be an issue with a second job and taking one shouldn’t be the employer’s business or concern.

            Ergo no need to tell them. They employee you for X amount of time. They don’t own you or all of your time.

      2. Not Me*

        Agreed. There are definitely industries where asking for forgiveness instead of permission could get you fired for ethical concerns, regardless of the moonlighting job.

      3. CMart*

        I’m actually really grateful for this letter/thread because it made me go back and check our handbook re: moonlighting/conflicts of interest. I’m in finance/accounting and since the beginning of the year own a small business with my husband and it did not occur to me until now that perhaps I need to officially disclose that!

        Pretty much everyone I work with knows and no one’s said boo about it, but it can’t hurt to make sure I’m in compliance.

    3. facepalm*

      Same. My old company had an anti-moonlighting policy and there were still lots of cars in the parking lot with Uber and Lyft stickers. I’m positive none of those people asked for permission, because when we were being furloughed, a supervisor asked if people would be allowed to take part-time jobs (say at Lowe’s or Home Depot or whatever) to have some income until the furlough ended, and HR replied that the anti-moonlighting policy still applied O_____O

      1. WellRed*

        I hope those people ignored HR. If they are not being paid, the company should have less than zero right to dictate their off-work (out of work, really) hours.

      2. Mike C.*

        How can an anti-moonlighting policy apply if you’re being furloughed? That doesn’t make any sense.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Because you’re still technically an employee, despite being unpaid and on a leave of absence.

          It’s not fair and absurd, I agree completely but it’s enforceable.

      3. OhNo*

        Wow, talk about tone deaf. This is the exact reason that having an anti-moonlighting at all policy makes me side-eye companies hard.

        I’ve worked at some places that have a variation on a moonlighting policy, but it’s always had pretty solid limitations – mostly that you can’t get paid for outside work only during time that you are also getting paid at that job (e.g.: no working for pay when you’re out on PTO). If that crossover of time wasn’t present, there were no restrictions.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          The other example I can think of is where you need protected time off, eg if you work as a driver or first responder. Sure they might choose to go clubbing (etc) in their spare time, but from a safety perspective they need to be able to choose to chill out and/or have a sleep and not *have* to go to $SideGig.

    4. hbc*

      I’m a pretty big rule follower, but I would have kept HR in the dark too, because this can’t possibly have been the intention of whoever wrote this rule.* Reffing community sports, selling handicrafts, tutoring math–those are all tiny little “jobs” that the employer would never know or care about, and that have the same impact if you got paid versus volunteered.

      *And if it was their intention, they’ve forfeited any obligation I had to tell them the truth.

      1. Alternative Person*

        Same, unless there is a regulatory/conflict or interest issue in play (and as told, I don’t think there is) then I come down on the side of ‘What they don’t know, can’t hurt them’.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Those can absolutely be conflicts, though, depending on how you use them. Like, tutoring services are great — but what happens when you’re asked to tutor the child of one of your firm’s big clients? Suddenly it becomes a problem.

        One of the big tradeoffs of finance is that while you can make a lot of money doing it, you also agree to let your firm have a pretty invasive view of your life.

      1. De Minimis*

        Yep. Can cause big headaches if you’re working for a client [or a client subsidiary.]

        When I was a fed, we had to clear outside employment but it was generally a formality unless your job function involved procurement and your second job was with a vendor.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Same same. It is better to ask forgiveness than permission. “Ohhhh I thought the policy only applies to other jobs in finance, sorry, honest misunderstanding”.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, no, that’s not the case. At least at my firm (F100), if the outside activity policy applies to you, you know it, and taking the “forgiveness over permission” route means lying on your attestations and risking getting fired.

    6. Newington*

      I dunno, it seemed so obviously-not-a-problem that not asking probably wouldn’t have occurred to me either. I asked permission for my side-hustle in my current job and it was fine, but it barely occurred to me that it might not be. (And my side-hustle is tangentially related to my day job, so a refusal would have been far more justifiable than the OP’s situation.)

      If they get a reputation for arbitrarily turning down requests, people will stop bothering to request.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I would be on board with this if the person wasn’t in finance. I’m like “None of your business, bro!” most of the time but finance people don’t just lose one job over it if it shakes out funky, they lose their entire ability to work in the industry itself.

      This is an industry that people have to watch themselves carefully or they can not just ruin a career but land in legal hot water when fudging rules.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, finance is basically the industry of “we can’t have nice things.” And with unfortunately good reason.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Exactly. The stakes are simply just too high and they have to close up all the holes where the massive quantities of money being dealt with on a regular basis can just accidentally slip through the cracks.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          Wasn’t there a thread a while back about a woman in finance whose husband was refusing to fill out the financial disclosure paperwork? And the comments were split between people outside the industry who were like “OMG I would never give my spouse’s employer my personal financial information! That’s insane!” and people in the industry who all said “Yup, that’s normal, allow me to explain conflict of interest and insider trading.”

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Yep, exactly that. And I was one of the finance people going “yeah, that’s normal, your husband is being a tool.”

    8. MissDisplaced*

      Yup! Never tell your employer about stuff like this. They’ll nearly always be unreasonable, or you’ll be branded a troublemaker for pushing it.

    9. CM*

      Based on what other people are saying about finance, I guess maybe in finance you have to tell someone, but in any other situation — I agree. I get that you don’t want to risk losing your job over something stupid, but you also don’t want to lose your freedom over something stupid.

  11. Jeannalola*

    Does anyone remember a TV ad a year or two ago that had a Financial Advisor who turned out to be a DJ and had no FA training or experience? The point of the ad was that you need to check out your Advisor. They put in a suit and cut his hair and the people in the ad were shocked he was a DJ. Maybe Finance and DJ’ing is not good optics.

      1. fposte*

        As noted above, in finance, it’s likely to be a huge deal to hide stuff from your employer to get around a rule. You’re always free to roll the dice and hope they don’t find out, but if they do, it may tank you not just at your employer.

  12. CatCat*

    Their “we don’t need to give you a reason” stance is bizarre; it’s practically designed to piss you off and send you running into the arms of a competitor.

    That would pretty much be my reaction.


  13. hbc*

    Ugh, this is exactly the kind of side gig that’s meant to be allowed by these kinds of policies. Not bordered by a work day, in no way related to primary job, and looks like basically an extension of a hobby? Check, check, check. This would get rubber stamp approval in most places.

    OP, do you know of anyone who’s actually gotten approval for a second job? I’m thinking either that they’re reacting to the late hours/party atmosphere element of this (not that you couldn’t hang out the club unpaid with the same effect on work), or that they just say no to everyone.

  14. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Another finance person here. I agree with Alison that your employer at least owes you a good reason. I can think of a few possibilities — if the club you would be a DJ at is a client, for example, that could present a reasonable conflict of interest. But simply denying you is ridiculous.

    1. halfwolf*

      yeah, agreed! i’m also in finance, and my compliance department is really upfront about a) why these rules about getting permission exist in the first place and b) the fact that it’s more than likely fine for you to do it, we just need to have record of it first. lying on your quarterly attestations could get you not just fired, but booted from the industry (as The Man, Becky Lynch noted in another thread). it extremely sucks that they said no, and i wouldn’t be surprised if that decision got reversed, but the worst part is that they are refusing to give OP an explanation. explaining to people why compliance has to deny something (even if it’s “this would be a conflict of interest that we’re not at liberty to disclose”) is always going to result in a better outcome.

  15. no, the other Laura*

    Does it say HR manager specifically? If so I’d try going over this one’s head. Otherwise, maybe ask your direct boss instead. A LOT of those type of questions, even if something is directing you to an HR person, your actual direct boss has discretion over. Most companies I’ve worked at including the big publicly traded kind, HR’s job is really to try to negotiate deals with Blue Cross, make sure everyone got their insurance cards in the mail, set up electronic pay stubs, post job openings on Indeed and coordinate layoffs – they have very little power over day to day interpersonal things in real life, including discipline, hiring and firing. That’s almost always coordinated by managers behind the scenes, and HR only puts paperwork in a file.

    1. Mop*

      That is absolutely not the role of an HR Manager at a company this large. On the flip side, a company this large should be able to provide a more standardized rationale for why they’re denying this. LW should escalate.

  16. goducks*

    How asinine. If the OP were DJing for free as a hobby, they’d have nothing to say about it. They almost certainly don’t have an actual issue with what their employee is doing, if they were to look at it in that context. The fact the OP is paid to do something that has nothing to do with the company, and would be fine if it were not for compensation should be the stick they measure against.

  17. Lil Sebastian*

    It’s unfortunate that you followed the rules (asking about moonlighting) and received such a vague reason as to why you got the no. I’m trying to think why my organization (a college) would say no to moonlighting gigs and all I could come up with was
    – It was at a location that by being associated with it may impact perception of you/the company (e.g. if somebody in my department was DJ’ing white supremacy parties…that could make it awkward for students to feel they could come to us for support)
    – It was a conflict of interest (e.g. working for a competitor, tutoring students privately when you’re also the teaching a teaching assistant for that course)
    – You were doing it on work time and/or with company resources

    Funnily enough, somebody I worked with did DJ in town on weekends. It didn’t interfere with work and the few people who recognized him from both jobs were impressed with his work ethic. Good luck LW!

    1. Not Australian*

      IMHO any time you end up having to say “It’s unfortunate that you followed the rules”, it means the rules themselves are wrong.

      1. Newington*

        This. And if the consequences of following the rules are worse than the consequences of ignoring them probably would have been, people are going to stop following them pretty quickly.

  18. boo bot*

    Maybe it’s an image thing, like they don’t want one of their employees working at a nightclub? Do you, perchance, work for the comptroller of the town from Footloose?

    1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      If this is the case, you just need to put together some elaborate group choreography and rent a confetti cannon after Anger Dancing in a barn. Works every time.

  19. TootsNYC*

    I wonder if they think that DJ’ing at a place where alcohol is served might make you (and them) vulnerable to some sort of reputation-damaging situations.

    1. goducks*

      They have 50,000 employees. I think that they almost certainly have associations with employees and drinking. Certainly they have employees at much greater risk of damaging their reputation than one who works a night a week at a place that serves alcohol. Would they pass on someone working a second job waiting tables for the same reason?

    2. AnotherAlison*

      And yet, I assume there is no policy on people attending bars. One could even go to a bar in a finance guy fleece vest with the company logo.

    3. OlympiasEpiriot*

      But people who work in finance are notorious for being customers at places alcohol is being served. (Unless this is Utah, or some small, dry community.)

    4. Natalie*

      Reaaaaaaaally not likely in finance. That’s my conspiracy theory explanation, actually – someone or someones are patrons of the club and want to maintain the freedom to get freshman-style wasted there.

  20. chica*

    My guess is that finance on the whole is pretty conservative, and they think that “DJ” does not fit their image.

    1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      @chica You would be surprised if it’s in NY! Because of a license my partner holds and the terms of his employment, we have to report every time we intend to make a donation to a political candidate even if it’s $10…and you can look up other approved donations by employees. Below the C suite or very top executive types, individual donations skew heavily towards candidates looking to re-regulate the financial industry and other left-leaning causes. Not all what I expected.

      1. CMart*

        Well, there’s “conservative/right wing politically” and then there’s “conservative/traditional in social conventions”. One can be Feelin’ The Bern while simultaneously being the most buttoned up, straight-laced square on the block, clutching their pearls at the notion of being affiliated with 2am raves while advocating for Medicare For All.

  21. SloppyLips*

    I already feel that U.S. employment laws protect employers more than employees…and yet today I find out that some companies can decide to prevent their employees from making some extra money on the side while they are employed by said company. Isn’t that like preventing you from making a living?

    It’s ridiculous!

    1. Devil Fish*

      Yes, it’s exactly like that. The employment laws here are terrible, the meritocracy is lie, and we need unions so bad.

      The companies that pay well and have plausible deniability relating to potential conflicts of interest are one thing, but most of my experience with jobs that don’t allow second jobs are shitty part-time things that say you have to be “available for all shifts” while only offering to schedule you for somewhere between 5 and 22 hours per week.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Ugh. That garbage should be illegal. Frankly, a company like that is practically begging people to steal from the till, and I won’t feel a bit sorry for them when they have a problem with that because it’s the only way their employees can eat.

    2. Not Me*

      Not really. The company needs to protect themselves and there are plenty of side jobs that could present a serious conflict of interest.

      It honestly amazes me how many commenters here are shocked that an employees actions outside work could impact their first job. Especially in an industry like finance. There are serious regulations and ethical rules that apply.

      1. WS*

        Of course an employee’s actions outside work can affect their first job, that’s not surprising. What’s surprising is the amount of control that the first job has over the rest of their life. I understand that I can’t go work for another [same industry] company trade fair, or give [industry] advice over a deli counter. That doesn’t mean I can’t go work any non-conflicting job I please outside work hours.

  22. Kiki*

    I was able to think of two possible explanations if LW’s job involves interacting with clients:
    1) HR doesn’t like the idea of clients seeing LW at the club and thinking they need a side hustle to make ends meet, which could detract from the clients’ respect for LW’s financial expertise.
    2) HR is worried about the firm being associated with a nightclub lifestyle.

    I don’t think those are good explanations. People are allowed to have lives outside of their day jobs. I think it would be worth investigating if anyone has been able to get their side hustle approved so you can determine if it’s this specific job or if your company just looks down on all side jobs.

    1. Lilith*

      Kiki, I thought of your first option also. OP would bring some embarrassment to his original place of work by having to have a second job to make ends meet.

    2. TootsNYC*

      although, being a DJ is often something someone does because they like it, it’s sort of an artistic pursuit, not unlike being in a band or painting, or writing a novel. And the money’s nice, but not always the primary motivator (not that people can’t make good money at it, but that I, as a layperson, would think, “Oh, their creative side!”)

      It’s not the same as being a waitress or working in retail, or working for a landscape company on Saturdays.

      1. Devil Fish*

        I agree with this. The small time local DJs I know usually do it for free drinks and tips.

        I would never look at a DJ and think “Oh it’s so sad that Bob’s firm isn’t paying him enough and he has to pick up side work here!” it would be more like “Oh I didn’t realize Bob from FinanceCorp is so into Skrillex. Neat!”

      2. Kiki*

        Right, I don’t think they are *good* explanations, just what may be running through HR’s mind

      3. ArtsNerd*

        Yeah, it wouldn’t have even occurred to me to clear my band with HR under this rule, even if we were revenue positive (soon!)

  23. tazdevil*

    Sounds to me like a typical HR power move. Even though I suspect DJ-ing would only bring in “pin money” as opposed to the sort of money that could allow you to leave a job, HR probably views any attempt by the peons to have other options as undermining the company’s death grip on the workers. These companies want you to act like supplicants, grateful for every moldy crumb that you are given, and any sort of side gig messes with that power dynamic.

  24. Manager In Name Only*

    You could check with your state Department of Labor (if you are in the US), to see if they have any guidelines in place regarding employer moonlighting policies. There could be a list of policy requirements, or a list of allowable exceptions. It’s a long shot, but maybe it would help you.

    1. fposte*

      I think Donna Ballman covered that, though–only three states have any regulations about allowing moonlighting at all. It’s just not something that’s been worth it for most states to get into.

  25. Rebekah*

    This seems totally normal for a finance job. When I worked in finance the rule was basically no second job except in very exceptional situations. When I joined one firm I was tutoring a special needs kid for a nominal one-time fee. It had to go through multiple managers and eventually they allowed me to finish out the school year on the understanding that this would never happen again.

    I’m not saying that it is right or sensible, but I think it is super common.

    1. Anonymous Poster*

      Yeah, I could see where a conservative finance role would not be okay with their folks taking second jobs. Image wise, it could give the impression that their people aren’t paid well enough to live on their salary alone, which people would read into. Or it could lead to a potential ethical issue where a second job contact starts asking after things they shouldn’t. And the list could go on.

      Image matters, and if they’re trying to protect the company’s image, that makes sense. People are always reading tea leaves in every industry, and finance is just particularly prone to the tea-leaf reading.

      I think there’s room to push back, but I also think at some point ‘no’ could be an acceptable answer. Though hopefully they’ll treat the writer as an adult and explain why, instead of just nope-catting in an email.

    2. fposte*

      I was wondering that. The key piece of information the OP doesn’t have is how frequently this permission is granted. If nobody or nearly nobody ever gets it, that’s not about her, that’s about policy, and she may just have to accept it.

        1. fposte*

          Right, it should be simple to say “We only allow it for this level of employees” or “this kind of business.” This is the kind of answer that makes people do what you don’t want them to do.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yeah, we wouldn’t want our customers to find out our employee tutors a special needs kid. That would be awful. {insert rolling eyes here}

      1. Devil Fish*

        Exactly. Good thing the employer shut that down, that’s a much better look for the company. (Omfgsrslywhut.)

  26. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    OP, that is so obnoxious and ridiculous that I think my eyes may be permanently stuck due to me rolling them so hard. I really hope you escalate this up the chain and write in with an update once you gets some answers (and permission to take the gig, because wtf). My boyfriend has a sometimes side gig DJing, and I can not imagine his (super conservative, red tape loving) employers telling him “No, you may NOT spin sweet, sweet 80s tunes on the side, Employee #579-x!”

  27. Anonymous Poster*

    I suspect this might be someone low level who defaults to no, simply because they don’t believe they have the standing to say yes. If something were to go awry, their job might be on the line – so it’s better to say no. I wouldn’t attribute any malice here, it sounds relatively normal drone-level work and response to a question. And no one’s going to write as the explanation, “I don’t feel secure enough in my role or don’t have the leeway to give you a yes, because if something goes wrong it may blow back on me.”

    That said, you don’t have to just sit there and take the answer. Ask about the appeals process, and if this individual’s supervisor is able to approve this work. Be polite and push, because you should be able to wheedle out of them an explanation. If you’re comfortable with it, you can loop in your boss and ask for their help in how to appropriately address this. I’ve done this with bosses and odd HR folks, and they’ve given me other strategies to get what I needed done. For example, maybe they know the appropriate supervisor who can override this decision or provide an answer, or they can push back on your behalf. I’d suggest starting with pushing back just yourself because once you start escalating, people have a tendency to dig in. But politely asking after an appeals process and explaining how you will not use your current job in any way, shape, or form in your side gig, and prioritize your current work over your DJing, should help put the reasonable minds at ease.

    Best of luck!

    1. Angwyshaunce*

      Yeah, I was wondering if the HR person was thinking, “If I say yes, there’s a 0.01% chance this could come back to hurt me – if I say no, then it’s 0%”.

  28. SheLooksFamiliar*

    I worked for a company that had policies on moonlighting/second jobs/side hustles/hobbies for sale/cottage industries. They carefully spelled out what constituted a conflict of interest, reasonably asking that such work was not with a competitor or customer of the company. One of our Directors had a DJ gig on the weekends, and no one had a problem with that…and she was pretty good!

    Also stipulated was no solicitations for business on company property. Several folks selling Avon, Gold Canyon Candles, and Silpada complained, but the policy stood.

  29. vito*

    What I find funny about this is when I worked for Major Theme Park A in Central Florida, A large number of co-workers (Cast Members) were working part-time at Major Theme Park B. And vice versa.

  30. Dan*

    I think Donna may have missed a legal angle… the first analogy that comes to mind is non-compete agreements, which while legal, are generally considered to be unenforceable if they are overly broad. I don’t see why moon-lighting is much different, and consequently, why that same legal argument wouldn’t apply to an overly broad moonlighting policy.

    1. fposte*

      The unenforceability of noncompetes comes in *after* you leave your employer. While you’re working for your employer is a whole ‘nother ball game.

      1. MayLou*

        They’re unenforceable because you can’t fire someone who’s already left and there’s no way to prove damages in most cases. When you still work someone, the way the policy can be enforced isn’t by suing but by firing.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          They’re typically unenforceable for being overly broad. But fposte is right that it’s not an angle you can use when you’re still employed there.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            The cases where I have read non-competes have be successful are:

            -the person it applies to has to be sufficiently high level enough that potential disclosure of information could harm the original company. There was a big national sandwich shop ( I don’t remember the name) that tried to prevent the local low level hourly sandwich makers/cashiers from going to work for other sandwich shops if they ever left. That was struck down for good reasons.

            – if they are only restricted from working in a confined geographic area, the company does it work/clients in NYC area, so no working in the NYC area is okay, but you can’t ban someone from working in the same field in say LA (especially if the original company has not work/clients in LA) it can get a little more complicated if the company is national and has a foot print all over the country. But usually country wide non-competes have not held up.

            -has to be for a certain short period of time, maybe 3/5 years, you can’t prevent someone from working in the same industry forever.

        2. fposte*

          I’m talking about them being *legally* deemed unenforceable, not about the practical difficulties. California, for instance, doesn’t recognize noncompete agreements that restrict future employment. It does, however, permit noncompete/anti-moonlighting restrictions on *current* employment.

  31. Dr. Crusher was a great boss*

    Whoa, what a strange way to react! Please update us on their reasoning if you escalate.

  32. BeeGee*

    I would bring up the point to HR that if the CEO of Goldman Sachs can DJ in his free time (seriously, he does, and actually made a remarkably good Fleetwood Mac remix) so can you.

  33. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Most DJ’s are going to go by stage names anyways, so they’re pretty hard to tie you to your day-job anyways. Mind fully blown on this one, I wonder if they think that you’re going to become so insanely popular you’re going to quit their nonsensical company and jet set all over the place, talking about how you used to work with celeb portfolios and now you’re being called upon to DJ their personal parties on their yachts.

    I would go to another person in HR, this cannot be the only one and the end all for such a big company.

  34. Aquawoman*

    If the policy really says, “that the employer may deny concurrent employment if they deem it to be incompatible with the employee’s duties,” then I think the HR manager is wrong that “HR may refuse without any justification.” They’re basically saying they denied it based on nothing, but the policy requires (?) that it be incompatible with the employee’s duties. It’s weak (because they just need to “deem” it incompatible) but it’s something.

    I think I’d ask my boss for help and frankly, if I were in a large private company, I might just go ahead and do it anyway.

  35. CaVanaMana*

    My employer has something like that and they’re a large company, with many nonsense policy and it’s a company that loves paper work so, asking would be like a week long ordeal. I didn’t bother asking. I simply went to my second job.

    If a coworker saw you, would they know you don’t have permission? Probably not. Would they bother to go through the hassle to find out? Probably not. Unless you’ve got some real enemy, it wouldn’t be brought up. Why screw over an otherwise well liked and competent coworker so the corporation can exercise some arbitrary control over individuals?

    What are the odds that your boss person is going to be at the club and what are the odds that she cares that much about some nonsense company policy and wants to make it a priority to deal with it?

  36. Cheesecake2.0*

    Moonlighting as a DJ is a legit dream of mine (although I have zero DJ experience, it just seems amazing) so I hope, OP, that you figure out a way to make it work and come back and update us!

  37. Brett*

    Does the nightclub have a bar and primarily make its money from the sale of alcohol?

    I reviewed some of the secondary employment policies from past public sector employers and academic private sector employers (who were my secondary employment) and all of them had clauses outright forbidding employment “in any business or location where the manufacture, transportation or sale of alcoholic beverages or beer by the drink is the principal business.”

    Virtually all of them had the exact same wording, so I suspect this is a common secondary employment policy that lots of places copy from each other. Obviously not everyone has this policy (one of the posters above was an alcohol/drink tester for secondary employment), but it is a common one. The other two extremely common ones were taxi companies (but not rideshare) and any company that is on strike.
    (Also, any chance at all that your finance company is somehow connected to the night club, e.g. banking, insurance, loans? That would be another reason to bar you from working there.)

    1. goducks*

      If the company had such policies or connections, the logical thing to do would be to explain that to the OP as the reason why their request was denied. I think OP would understand, even if they found the reasoning disappointing.
      I’ve worked in HR for a long time, it is pretty much never okay to use “because I said so” as a reason. It breeds distrust and creates a negative culture. Employees can almost always live with decisions they don’t care for if they understand the reasoning behind them (to whatever degree they can be explained without breeching confidentiality when applicable).

      1. Brett*

        That’s what seems weird. There does not even seem to be a written policy (in a company of 50k) to consult. If there was, then OP would probably already understand the reason even with HR being opaque.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is good info!

      However it doesn’t explain why this cagey HR rep didn’t just point it out in the policy if it’s so clear *face palm* That would be so simple to just spew out “per our policy!”

      1. goducks*

        Right? What HR person doesn’t LOVE a policy or law to point to when they have to be the dreamkiller?

        It’s not me saying no, it’s the policy! My hands are tied!

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Seriously, I love it when it’s just clear cut policy because “I’m not the bad guy, I’m just the ref referring to my rules manual here *shakes it at them*”

          This HR person is clearly Extra New or really loves just smashing dreams without a reason-hammer.

      2. Not Me*

        I could see the HR person not understanding why the answer is no, so just defaulting to “policy says I don’t have to tell you”. Not everyone is good at their jobs :)

        1. OhNo*

          That would make sense. If the “no” came from further up the chain, the poor HR peon probably wouldn’t want to take on the extra work of asking and trying to figure out why, and so just defaulted to “because I said so”.

          The impulse is understandable, but it’s still crappy behavior on that person’s part.

  38. Deirdre*

    These kinds of HR people make me want to pull out my hair. I would like to understand the vetting process for these requests. And who is actually the decision-maker? I have friends/colleagues who have the misfortune of working with HR staff who look for ways to say no (and be punitive) just because they can. I would encourage you to escalate this and get some answers. I would be asking:

    – what’s the criteria used to evaluate the moonlighting gig?
    – how often is it evaluate?
    – who is moonlighting? who keeps track?
    – what are the consequences if employees DON’T have moonlighting pre-approved?

    I would bet my money that many others moonlight / consult and it’s never run through HR. I would push for more answers.

  39. voyager1*

    I work in banking, worked at a a small credit union that had a similar policy. Our HR director had a side hustle of being a HR Consultant. Nobody batted an eye.

  40. Alternative Person*

    My main job has a similar rule and the staff tend to fall into the camps of ‘never moonlight ever’ and ‘do it discreetly, have a good friend with a sob story lined up if you get caught’. As far as I know no-one (that I know of) has been caught. It makes for some interesting conversations sometimes.

    It really bugs me when companies do this because often I’m not making that much in the grand scheme of things from doing extra work, most of the time it’s super short three hours over three weeks or holiday cover type gigs, but that money really makes a difference to me over the long run.

  41. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Maybe HR’s attitude is more like “DJs can make lots of money, so allowing you to be a DJ gives the appearance that we don’t pay our employees enough.”

  42. Apocalypse How*

    The one time I worked at a for-profit company (healthcare software), they had a policy that employees could not have any other paying job while employed at the company. As HR put it, “Even if you want to sell handmade birdhouses out of your garage, that’s not allowed.” I ended up quitting my job teaching Hebrew school because I was worried it violated the policy and was afraid to ask.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Apocalypse How, how did your company address the issue of military reservists?

      1. Apocalypse How*

        That’s a good question. They had a reputation for chewing up recent grads and spitting them out and most of them lasted less than a year, so I don’t know how often that situation came up.

  43. RTC*

    This is probably less desirable, but could you do the DJ gig without being paid? That might side-step your company’s policy about moonlighting while still being able to DJ. I understand that 9pm-3am is a long shift, especially if it is every Saturday night, so it might not be worth it without monetary compensation.

    1. Ugh*

      Or if he/she gets caught, say that they are “volunteering” this particular Saturday.

      Also, there are many clubs that I have been to where the DJ has their own DJ booth up on the second level where patrons are not allowed to go. It’s also so dark in there, it’s hard to see the DJ’s face.

  44. Buttons*

    I think this whole thing is ridiculous! Unless a DJ is a famous DJ playing huge gigs, they all have second “real” jobs. And anyone who is at a club to dance isn’t going to care if their financial advisor is the DJ.
    I would mention the Goldman Sachs CEO is also a DJ, and see what they have to say.
    Also, would they found out if you did it anyway?

  45. ChachkisGalore*

    Compliance person here (in finance) – I’m the one who reviews the employee requests for these sorts of things (“outside business activities”). There can be very legitimate reasons to deny seemingly benign and unrelated requests and there are entire federal regulations.

    Sometimes its based on confidential or non-public info, and depending on what you do or just what dept you work in, making you aware of that info (in giving the reason) could have major implications for the company. That said, there should be some sort of explanation even if its to say “We have to deny this, it poses a conflict a of interest (or the appearance of a conflict of interest) for the company. Unfortunately we can’t provide further info due to confidentiality issues”.

    Not sure what type of financial company you work for, but it is most likely subject to federal level rules/regulations concerning how potential conflicts of interest (which any moonlighting setup could be) are identified, evaluated, documented and disclosed.

    I would suggest reaching out to your compliance department (try to figure out who handles either outside business activity requests or who handles Code of Ethics). They might be able to provide you a bit more info. They might be able to at least tell you – yes, there were legal level conflicts of interest concerns OR no, this isn’t a compliance level concern, this was denied for a purely HR related reason (concern over how many hours you’d be working, etc.).

    1. MsSolo*

      Oh, you mean the specific club could be or have been a client at some point (or belong to a company where that applies) but in some way LW is unaware of?

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        It does not even have to a direct client. But the finance company could have a major insurance company as a client that the bar/club uses as their general liability insurer. The finance company could mortgage holder, underwriter for the local bank that gave the club owner a loan for the business. OP’s company works with the liquor distributor that supplies the bar. I do think HR should have given OP a little bit more of an explanation.

      2. ChachkisGalore*

        Yup. Realistically, real world speaking – there’s no chance that the actual act of being a DJ poses an actual conflict, however an employee of the finance firm, receiving money from the nightclub could possibly be viewed as the “appearance” of a conflict.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      But only a really crappy HR person would say “I don’t have to tell you” instead of explaining all of this.

    3. goducks*

      “It’s a conflict of interest. Due to confidentiality I can’t elaborate as to how”, is a reason. Maybe not a particularly satisfying reason, but light years better than “because I said so”.

      1. boo bot*

        Exactly. And I actually feel like it would be a relatively satisfying explanation (though less satisfying, perhaps, than “sure, go ahead.”) It’s finance; the concepts of conflicts of interest, appearance of conflicts of interest, and client confidentiality aren’t exactly new territory, and if you know there’s a prohibitive conflict, it doesn’t really matter what it is.

        Thanks for the perspective, ChachkisGalore!

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      (Unrelatedly, I’d love to pick your brain about your job, ChachkisGalore! Compliance is the area I’m trying to aim my career trajectory toward.)

      1. ChachkisGalore*

        Happy to chat! I genuinely like the work, but most people’s eyes glaze over the second anything work related comes up, so I rarely get to talk about it haha. Not quite sure how to connect, let me know if you have any ideas/preferences

    5. Observer*

      This is really interesting. Even though something like this would be less than satisfying it is a reason – and it could even be somewhat actionable for the OP. Because “this could be a conflict of interest problem” says it’s not just the fact of weekend work as a DJ at ANY club but that the problem is THIS club, which means that it might be worth trying to find another gig. On the other hand “policy forbids staff in X positions to work in places that require a liquor license” would be REALLY annoying, but the OP is not going to try to find another gig at a nightclub in that case.

  46. Amethystmoon*

    This rule seems over the top. I know people at my current job who have another part-time job during evenings and/or weekends because the current job doesn’t pay all that great. It’s at a corporation and above minimum wage, but still, not that great.

  47. JSPA*

    Sounds like a blast! Unless they’re required to pay you: Do it for free, and have them donate the fee to a charity of your choice, in your name. Just dare your workplace to come after you for doing charity work in your free time, as a hobby.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Nah, they absolutely still can do that. Outside activity restrictions can absolutely be applied to charitable activities. Charities are clients of financial firms, after all!

      1. JSPA*

        The question specified “second job,” not “volunteering” or “activities,” though. If the letter of the law says “job,” and the employer won’t clarify the reason for the denial, why is OP required to go to great lengths to impute reasons and interpret what the rules should say (but don’t actually)? “I was told I could not DJ for pay, so I instead volunteered and asked them to donate to a worthy charity” doesn’t have to be what work would want, if it meets the test of their actual rules.

    2. Sacred Ground*

      Wouldn’t that then put the club in violation of labor laws? A business can’t accept free labor.

  48. Mazarin*

    Yuck. Frankly, I find all bans on moonlighting that isn’t for a direct competitor immoral. What I do with the time my employer isn’t paying me for is my own business. What’s next, are they going to go all Henry Ford and demand to see your house to make sure it’s clean?

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      Here in the UK we have a culture of “zero-hours contracts” – the most extreme of these being “No, you’re not on rota this week (so you won’t get paid), but you’re not allowed to go and work anywhere else (conflict of interest doesn’t enter into it – although the competitor clause makes (a twisted kind of) sense).

  49. TrekMyStars*

    This is so insane. This is pretty much a hobby that is very expensive so it makes sense that they should be able to get some money out of it if they can.

  50. JSPA*

    P.S. use a stage name. Even “D.J. Firstname” is enough of a barrier that your stage persona won’t come up in google searches by potential clients. Which might be a legit worry.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Yeah, but then if a coworker or client comes in and sees LW working, they’re screwed.

      1. Mazarin*

        Why, though? What’s so wrong about being at the same club? “I saw Marc DJing at the club…because I was also there!”

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          There’s a line some people draw between “going” to a place and “being employed by” the place. It’s gross and often rooted in sexism of course.

          What comes to mind is the college students who take up jobs at the gentlmen’s clubs to pay their tuition. You can be kicked out of school for it yet you don’t get kicked out of school for just going to them for a bacholor’s party or boys night out.

      2. JSPA*

        That was a p.s. to my prior, “volunteer instead of getting paid / ask them to donate to a charity.”

        “I’m not working, I’m doing a volunteer turn on behalf of a charity” = not working a second job.

  51. HailRobonia*

    Hailrobonia, it has come to our attention that you mowed your neighbor’s lawn last weekend.

    Oh, that… my neighbor is elderly and I was mowing my lawn and figured I would take care of hers as well…

    It also appears that she paid you $20 for this service.

    She’s old fashioned and I said I would happily do it for free but she was very insistent…

    Your’re fired!


    My company used to have a blanket policy that all “moonlighting” jobs had to be approved by management. This year they changed the policy so if it was certain types of businesses, you do not need prior permission. However, if you develop a product, it must be reviewed, and cannot be in the line of business we are in. I’ve been talking about “moonlighting” for a couple years to pay off debt quicker, but due to taxes and rising insurance, this will be the year I have to do it to survive. No raise this year and only 2% raises last several years.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      NACSACJACK, how did your company handle people in the military reserves or national guard?

      1. NACSACJACK*

        Not being in management, I can’t say for sure, but what I’ve heard is we grant them the time off. People have gone on deployment and come back to their jobs. We’re a big supporter.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          That’s good, as it’s the law to do so. It would have been quite the shitshow had they not.

        2. fposte*

          Those also have strong federal protection in the form of USERRA–if service meets the pretty easy-to-meet criteria, companies have no choice in how they handle service. (Though interestingly that doesn’t apply to state callups, since under those the state, not the federal government, is the employer.)

    2. Michaela Westen*

      NACSACJACK, I hope you’re looking for a better job! No raise this year is not a good sign.

    3. Oh So Anon*

      Restricting moonlighting to activities that don’t compete with what your day job does sound reasonable. Even the product part – it’s not just about protecting the company but also ends up ensuring that no one walks off with intellectual property that their colleagues contributed to without giving them a cut.

  53. CAA*

    Re: “since this is so obviously not your employer’s business”.

    I don’t think we know that’s actually the case. Just because the OP works in finance, does not mean her employer is a financial services company. Maybe she’s an accountant in the finance department at a company with involvement in the music industry. I can easily believe that Sony and Apple would reject this request as having too much overlap with parts of their businesses and I’m sure there are many more large, publicly traded companies that would be in similar situations. Usually these types of restrictions are applied to all employees, even if their specific jobs wouldn’t normally create a conflict (e.g. the receptionist at IBM cannot have a side-business setting up computer networks).

    Of course the employer is still at fault for not providing a much better explanation.

  54. TotesMaGoats*

    I agree with Alison. Escalate the heck out of this if only to get a reason. Even if it’s a bad one. Then tell us how it all went down. Just promise to use the following handle:

    DJJazzyJeff From Finance

  55. lilsheba*

    oh no, they can’t tell you what to do on your own free time. How would they even know you had a second job on the weekend? do they tail you 24 hours a day? It’s none of their business, you do what you want with your own time.

  56. Database Developer Dude*

    I don’t mind disclosing that I work for Booz Allen Hamilton.

    My side gigs are being a mobile notary public and my Army Reserve duties. Firm policy means I had to ask permission, but it was a formality, as being a notary in no way impacts my day job duties. Of course asking for permission for the Army Reserve stuff was explicitly *not* required…

    My firm only cares if there’s some way the second job could interfere with or compete with the first. They don’t want problems created, but other than that, as long as I’m showing up for work and doing my job to the best of my ability, they don’t care.

    One Job Leader tried to push back on one of my extracurricular activities (taekwondo), but a word from my corporate boss to his corporate boss and he left me alone… and I’m not on that project anymore.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        This guy had a problem with me personally, so he used whatever excuse to give me static. He said “what if you get hurt sparring and can’t come to work??”.

        1. Buttons*

          HAHA that is ridiculous! People can get suddenly die and not be able to come to work, that is actually HIS problem, it is called succession planning and it is the responsibility of leaders and HR to have plans for that very scenario in place. What a tool.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Bless his heart. That dude must be related to the letter writer’s boss who was scared of her walking with a cane. All these contrived concerns, argh.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            He wasn’t scared, he was using it just to have something to criticize me about. I’m sure if I had gotten hurt sparring at a taekwondo class, he could care less…..

        3. Tigger*

          OMG one of my childhood friends worked for Booz and her manager wanted her to quit beer league softball and soccer because she might get hurt. I wonder if it was the same person

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            I seriously doubt it. It sounds like this manager was actually afraid of your friend getting hurt. This other manager of mine didn’t really care, he just didn’t like me.

        4. Pebbles*

          I guess if the company is willing to shell out for a giant plastic bubble ball… /s

          I’ve been on a team of the same 3 people for awhile now. One person broke his leg snowboarding (out 2 weeks), one person broke his ankle walking in icy conditions (WFH for 4 months), and I’ve both pulled a hamstring while water skiing (out 1 day) and got in a car accident that included 21 stitches in my forehead (out 2 days, REALLY should have been more). My team shouldn’t be allowed kiddie scissors or plastic knives at this point, yet our boss knows not to try and pull that with us. And if one of us is out, that can directly affect revenue so…

        5. Observer*

          Oh, so are you allowed to take the stairs? What if you trip and fall down the stairs?

          It’s kind of hard to wrap my head around the fact that he apparently objected with a straight face. I hope it made his corporate boss scrutinize his judgement a bit.

    1. Anon for this*

      Really? I have had project manager types “have words” about risky extracurricular activities before because of risk to the project. As stupid as it sounds – I didn’t have a rational comeback. I take my time off but don’t “travel” away due to this any more actually!

  57. MollyG*

    I am assuming of course that this job pays well enough that you would not have a financial need to take a second job. If they are going to control your weekend activities to this extent then they will pay you for it.

    1. Not Me*

      Usually moonlighting rules are about conflicts of interest and protecting the company, which has nothing to do with how much you’re paid.

      If you work for a law firm as a secretary and pick up word-processing work from another law firm to do in your own time, that could be a huge problem. Your employer can limit your activity outside of work in some ways, within reason, without paying you for the time.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        The examples that get used at my job for “no, seriously, you need to get permission for this stuff” are things like serving on the board of a charity that is a client of the firm, or operating a small business that a client of yours also patronizes. That can open you up to conflicts like “Oh, Mr. Client, keep me as your financial advisor and I’ll bake your wedding cake for free at my side business of Wedding Cakes R Us.”

      2. Mollyg*

        In this case there is no reason. They are controlling the LW just because the want to. They should either let him be a DJ or pay him.

  58. Phony Genius*

    I remember on a cartoon show years ago where the lead character was moonlighting. The boss found out and got upset and fired him. Mostly because he was insulted that the employee thought he wasn’t being paid enough, so he needed the second job. Basically, he not only wanted to underpay the employee, but make him like it. Of course, being a cartoon show, he got rehired in the end.

    Could this be a simple case of the company not wanting people to think that their employees need to moonlight to make ends meet?

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      A side gig is not always about extra money to make ends meet. Some artistic and altruistic pursuits are about developing and satisfying a part of an individual beyond their primary occupation.

  59. The bad guy*

    Many hr departments are bad, feel powerless and enforce policies like this to make themselves feel big. I’ve been held back from promotion before because hr said I hadn’t been at the company long enough. I think it’s just an hr person thing.

  60. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

    This is ridiculous. It reminds me of the manager who wouldn’t give the employee PTO to do a video game competition.

  61. Cautionary Whale*

    Just do the DJ’ing job and don’t tell them. There’s no way they’re going to check up on you on the weekends.

  62. Ann Perkins*

    I also work with outside business activity requests in the financial planning services industry, but it’s unclear to me based on the letter whether that’s the industry OP is in or whether she’s finance but in a different industry.

    I would recommend looping in your own supervisor, assuming that person would be an advocate for you. That person will hopefully help you navigate any internal dynamics going on to figure out what’s going on with the request and what the issue is.

    I would NOT recommend doing what many of these posters are saying and to simply ignore the employer’s process. If you’re required to disclose and seek approval for outside employment due to industry regulations, and you willfully violate those policies, you’re putting yourself at risk for losing your job and the ability to work in the industry.

  63. Delta Delta*

    I wonder if it would make a difference if OP said she was DJing at a club versus doing wedding DJ gigs? Maybe it’s the part about working in a club/bar that was the difference?

  64. Serious Pillowfight*

    I feel like if a company is going to have a moonlighting policy, they damn well better pay REALLY, REALLY well. Many people NEED second or even third jobs to pay bills and debt and afford rent and food.

    1. Oh So Anon*

      Lots of people need second or third jobs, but there are usually some ways to moonlight that don’t interfere with your day job. What the OP’s employer is doing is ridiculous, but it’s not otherwise unreasonable to have a moonlighting policy designed to restrict moonlighting for a competitor or customer.

  65. RUKiddingMe*

    I drspise “no moonlighting” policies. Some people *need* a second, or third, or…job.

    Aside from that though Employer tents X amount if my time for Y amount of money. What I do with the rest of my time isn’t their business. Employing me =/= purchasing me.

  66. 404_FoxNotFound*

    Chiming in only to say that as a late twenties old human, both of the larger than 50 people companies I’ve worked for in the past 5 or so years (for profit and non-profit, in two completely separate fields, both in MA) have had a “there can only be us” job policy. Seems not that uncommon for folks my age/in my location.

    The current position goes so far as the c-level staff selectively approving/denying your requests for specific gigs (be it childcare/tutoring through writer in spare time) to be okayed on a per person basis, and some of the requirements for those have been specific, like no more than 5hrs a month for said side job.

    TLDR, it is ridiculous, and at this point in life, I’m firmly on the side of “my company isn’t going to hear anything about my personal life or freelance art endeavours, ever.”

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Wow. Just…wow. So how do they handle it if someone asks for a raise instead? Also, how do they handle military reservists/guardsmen?

  67. Sleepless*

    I wonder if the LW’s HR is imagining them being up all night at a club Saturday and dragging their way through Monday? I did have a coworker years ago who performed with a band on Thursday nights and came in every Friday morning practically useless, and we were in a mentally intense client-facing role.

    1. Anon for this*

      Not exactly the same as the OPs circumstances, but I had an employer tell me that I could be “required” to give up the education I was doing outside the workplace because of “conflict of interest”. In that case it wasn’t due to involvement of the specific companies or something like that, but rather that they were concerned I was spending too much time outside work (late at night) preparing essays etc for the course, and wasn’t as refreshed at work in the mornings as I could be. (It wasn’t the case, but there was some truth in it. In a functional company they would have supported me in that education so that I wouldn’t have had to “moonlight” it, though. It was to further myself in the field, but no advancement within that specific company.)

  68. Wherehouse Politics*

    Either the HR person is on a petty power trip, there’s some sort of real conflict of interest with the venue where they are involved in some undisclosed way……..or it’s about a particular corporate culture, one that wants you to know your lower place, where they want to live rent-free in your head during your off-hours, no other distractions other than passive entertainment, keeping you manageable, dependent and docile.
    I’ve worked in retail in the past (admittedly lower-level work) and remember one manager who would never give an employee a full weekend, a consistent weekly schedule, or even two days off in a row, nor did he allow the managers under him to vary from this for their associates, even when it was actually easy to accommodate for everyone involved. His reason (overheard while he was walking past): he didn’t think they should ever completely disengage from their job, or make other plans that shift their focus away from their work.

  69. Anon for this one.*

    I’m an HR Director at a very large corporation. My
    teams have approved and denied these arrangements, generally in partnership with our compliance officers.

    Denial is almost always due to a conflict of interest, some of which are not always immediately evident to the employee. If LW is in a heavily regulated industry, this may be the case. At my current (and previous) employers, it is never because of a moral judgment or because we want to unfairly infringe upon the employee’s time. That said, we’re always able to clearly point out the reason to the employee. It’s ridiculous this person can’t or won’t explain why—the letter writer should go up the chain of command.

  70. Not Me*

    I’m actually really surprised not only Alison but a lot of the commentators here think there’s no reasonable situation where an employer may deny a request like this. I usually agree with Alison, but ignoring the possibility of a conflict of interest in this situation is silly in my opinion.

    I 100% agree that the LW should go up the chain for a reason the request was denied. Suggesting they “have zero moral or logical standing” to deny the request is just patently false and not the high standard of advice usually given here.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure, if there’s a conflict of interest, then they do have standing to deny it. But then they need to explain that! So far they haven’t given any indication that they do have moral or logical standing for the decision.

      1. Not Me*

        But they don’t need to explain it to the LW in order for the reason to be valid. I 100% agree they should tell LW the reason, the absence of that conversation doesn’t negate the logic and moral standing for the decision though. They are two separate things, in my opinion at least.

          1. Not Me*

            That’s not the advice you gave though. Your response says the employer is being asinine and “it’s so obviously not your employers business”, when it very well could be their business.

            “But I’d like to see you escalate this at your company at least to get an explanation, if nothing else. It’s BS.” This statement makes it pretty clear you think the denial is ridiculous (or BS) but you think LW at least deserves an explanation.

            “Leaving the impression” there is no reason and you (and the commentators) insisting there’s zero possibility of a reason are two different things.

            Like I said, I usually agree with your advice and have a lot of respect for you. This particular response and the insistence you’re right in light of those in finance HR roles suggesting otherwise is off putting.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I hadn’t read those comments — I’ve read about 10% of the comments on this post. So I just went back and looked for them, and now I see the context you’re talking about. Even there, though, the company could have communicated differently so the response didn’t sound so callous/borderline hostile.

  71. Sled dog mama*

    This post makes me so happy that my organization’s policy on moonlighting is as long as you’re not doing it while we’re paying you and you disclose any conflicts of interest we don’t care. So like if you’re a caterer on the side and you bid on a company event you have to disclose that you are employed by the company but otherwise it’s not their business.

  72. MissDisplaced*

    I am so infuriated for you OP! This is a prime example why you should never tell your company anything.
    “We don’t need to give you a reason because we’re a big company and you are our slave and will do as we say.” NOPE!

    Beware, more and more companies will be seeking to spy on worker communications (even on your private devices) and control worker’s lives away from actual work.

  73. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    The devil on my shoulder suggests trying the “brute force” approach with HR, with all sorts of requests (DJing, bartending, teaching knitting, goat walking, writing a book, whatever else you can think of) to see what their response and justification (if any) is each time.

    You shouldn’t actually do this (!) but I’m having fun picturing how that would pan out!

    1. Krickets*

      I was just about to come and post this! It would be hilariously sad if OP worked at one of those financial companies and their senior leadership got to DJ while they couldn’t. :(

      1. DKMA*

        I was going to post about this too. My theory is that he DOES work for Goldman, and the HR person knows that that is David Solomon’s usual DJ gig and she’s protecting the big boss from competition.

  74. Preppy6917*

    I realize I’m late to this, but can you get around it by being a contractor to the nightclub as opposed to an employee?

  75. LadyCop*

    Worked very briefly for my state’s prison system. Among many things, second jobs were not allowed because they wanted the ability to demand you work 16 hour days with zero notice. Obviously, this does make sense for many jobs…but at least there’s a logical explanation.

    Did once get a whole “at will” answer at a different job when I asked about a decision that was made. Some HR people are grossly adversarial and in my case, I do believe that department was terrified of legal action.

    1. Cherries on top*

      No, that doesn’t make sense. 16 hours with no notice is ridiculous if it’s anything but an extreme exemption.

      1. EmKay*

        Unfortunately for prison guards and correctional officers it’s the norm. I believe there’s a long term hiring freeze currently in place.

  76. Electric Sheep*

    I wondered if they thought the late hours on Saturday night would make the LW too tired during the week, and didn’t want to say that so they didn’t get into a ‘no I won’t’ ‘yes you will’ style argument. (To be clear, if that is the reason, I think it’s a poor one and they should have said yes and then addressed any issues if they came up.)

  77. Boss Of The Year*

    I think this is perfectly reasonable policy. They might just need you at the last minute to work unplanned unpaid overtime that day instead of DJing. They are just keeping their options open.

  78. His Grace*

    And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why HR is loathed. My god, LW, I don’t k now how long you have worked there, but if you’ve been there for a while, now is the time to put some clout to good use. You can talk with your boss and see what s/he has to say about the matter. Explain what HR said about the matter. Because this policy will cause many a good employee to quit at the first chance.

  79. NotTheSameAaron*

    It could be reasonable if the second job could bring your firm into disrepute. still, it’s not like you’re working as an exotic dancer or ratcatcher.

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