Moonlighting: Is it worth it?

An incident in a nearby district illustrates how “moonlighting,” or working a side job for pay outside of your employment agreement, can go terribly wrong.

A union electrician – a lineman at a utility company – was asked to help out a family friend who’d gotten what he perceived to be a high estimate to fix an electrical problem at his residence.

The project involved fixing some difficult-to-access wiring that fed to the HVAC system of a new addition to a home. The family friend agreed to do the job “on nights and weekends” for less than half the price of the electrical contractor’s estimate.

When he started doing the job he quickly realized he was in over his head, and his first attempt resulted in only a half-fix. When the electrical issue resurfaced he tried a different approach that involved cross-connecting some wires. The result, unfortunately, was a house fire.

In these types of situations the homeowner’s insurance company, who’s on the hook for the claim, looks for someone to recoup its money from. And after tracing the cause of the fire to faulty electrical work, chances are the insurance company will come after the moonlighting electrician. All of a sudden the gentleman who thought he was doing a favor for a friend to earn a few extra bucks may have his personal assets on the line.

Admittedly, the situation outlined above isn’t a common one, but it can certainly happen. And it did in this case. But it begs the question we all must ask ourselves: Is it worth it? Do we want or need this extra grief in our lives?

For the record, moonlighting is a violation of the collective bargaining agreement. It takes work away from our signatory contractors and puts our members in a precarious position of walking a tightrope without a net. We simply cannot support it. When you’re moonlighting you’re performing work that you’re most likely not carrying workers’ compensation coverage for, nor liability insurance to protect yourself from losing personal assets should something go wrong.

When you’re taking on a project for a close friend or family member, what’s to worry about, right? They’re not going to sue you if something goes terribly wrong. You’re probably right, but their insurance company doesn’t worry about an awkward moment at the next family get-together. As was illustrated in the story above, the insurance company will look to recoup its losses, and it’ll look to you first to see if your assets will cover it. Again, is it worth it?

The next time you’re approached about a side job, tactfully decline by pointing to the terms of your union contract and the liabilities it exposes you to. As an alternative, encourage your customer to let you run the project through the company, and ensure them they’ll be taken care of and given a competitive price. Ultimately, everyone wants a deal. They want good work and they want value. And nobody wins when a moonlighting job goes bad. Think about it. Is it worth it?