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Can I Set Limits on My Employees’ Side-Hustles?

You can if they’re using training your company paid for.

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What can you do when you have owners making decisions from their armchair when they don’t get out in the real world?

You could try a number of things, always bearing in mind that employees cannot order company owners to do anything. First, you could suggest owners should get out of the office — don’t say “armchairs” — for any number of reasons. These could include “needing your special expertise” or “insight only you can provide on site.” If a problem occurred on a recent project where the owner’s presence would have helped, you can politely cite that. If owners express they “don’t have the time” to leave the office for whatever reason, perhaps counter that the time spent “in the real world” — but again, don’t say it like that! — is a necessary investment that will save the whole company valuable time, including the owners. Do tread lightly, however, as your position allows you to make suggestions only. Plus, you don’t want bosses asking if they’re needed because the team — or you — can’t handle whatever situation.

We are looking for a software system like SquareCoil or [something else]. They all look OK. We just want a user-friendly one. We also want to hear from end users, not just the salespeople.

Our Shop Operations columnist Dale Salamacha, president and co-owner of Media 1/Wrap This (Sanford, FL) was considering the very same question some time ago. In a recent column, Dale described how the Facebook group “Those Damn Sign Guys” provided valuable advice and feedback from other companies using sign management software, including SquareCoil (see ST, June 2023): “A couple of years ago, when we decided we needed management software in our shop, we went directly to TDSG on Facebook and asked for advice on the best systems out there,” Dale wrote. “We got plenty of great direction.” Also, TDSG is not the only group on Facebook (or elsewhere) where you can find sign companies themselves — not the software companies — discussing and evaluating management software.

Can I set limits on my employees’ side-hustles? I don’t want them to apply training from my company to install wraps, for example, on weekends.

This is very much a state-by-state issue but in general the law looks dimly on efforts to restrict a person’s right to earn an income. Some states like California and New York are particularly protective of employee rights, including the right to “moonlight,” or work for other employers outside of regular work hours. At the same time, if you can show conflict of interest, for example, a wrap installer using training paid for by your company, or just anyone whose freelance work appears to be exhausting them and impacting their performance for you, then you stand on stronger ground. In such cases, talk to your lawyer about drafting an effective non-compete contract.

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