Whenever we write on employment cases, they usually involve employees who were wrongfully or unfairly dismissed by their companies. In many of those cases, the court will find that the employees were indeed terminated without a good reason and make the companies compensate them. We wrote on one such case that was widely-reported not too long ago.
But in this article, we’ll be looking at a case that’s pretty unique in its facts. The case concerned an employee who lost his job because he was part-timing elsewhere. He claimed he was fired, while the company said he resigned on his own.
Interestingly, the employee lost the case because the court wasn’t convinced by his arguments.
The doctor part-timed on the side
In this case, the employee was working as a senior physiotherapist in the company, which was a private hospital. One day, someone from the company came across a Facebook photo in which the employee was tagged. The employee had attended the event of another company, and was seen to be representing that company at the event. An officer from the company then met with him to inquire about what was going on.
The employee admitted that he had been working part-time with the other company. At this point, the officer informed him that they’ll have a meeting with him soon regarding this. 3 days later, they held the meeting with a few other key people in the department.
However, we can’t really tell exactly what transpired in that meeting because...
There were two sides to the story
The two parties—the company and the employee—give different accounts of what happened, and this played a huge role in the court’s decision. Here’s a short summary of their differing accounts:
According to him, during the meeting:
- he was given two choices—resign or be terminated. They added that he would be escorted out of the office by auxiliary police if he didn’t cooperate
- he asked for leniency from the company but they ignored him and told him he’ll have a bad employment record
- he was made to sign an agreement acknowledging his misconduct, and he was not allowed to leave the room until he signed it
- he did not resign voluntarily, but says he was forced to because they didn’t give him a choice
The company on the other hand said that:
- they did not give him such an ultimatum. In fact, they were very cordial and amicable in the meeting
- the employee was allowed to either stay with the company or leave and join the one he was part-timing at. But there was no mention of firing him
- they gave him some time to think about what to do and left him in the meeting room. When they came back to talk to him, he asked them how to tender his resignation
- they did not prevent him from leaving the meeting room as claimed by him
So in essence, the employee says that he resigned because he was forced to, while the company says that he resigned on his own had already decided on doing that much earlier.
The court wasn’t convinced by the doctor’s story
In deciding dismissal cases (like the one we’re looking at) the court will decide two things: whether the employee even did something that warranted a dismissal and whether the employer was right in dismissing them. But this case was a bit different because the company claims that he wasn’t even dismissed— he resigned on his own.
The court also looked at the witness’ testimonials. The company had brought two witnesses, while the employee only had himself as a witness. The court found it hard to believe the employee’s account mainly because no one else could corroborate the story, but also because
- there was proof he told the officer that he wanted to resign as soon as she brought up the event she saw on Facebook
- he was well aware of the consequences of his actions when he started working for a direct competitor of his company, This was considered to be a grave misconduct, and even if the company did want to dismiss him, it could be justified
- the employee made no effort to fight the dismissal—assuming it happened—and quietly left without protesting
- the accounts of the story by both the company’s witnesses matched
Because of this, the court found in favour of the company and could not award the employee the compensation he wanted, which was getting his job back.
Can your company stop you from working part-time elsewhere?
The court looked at whether or not the employee was actually forced to resign when deciding the case. But you might also ask: Is part-timing while working a full-time job not allowed—and was the hospital even right in taking action against him for it?
The answer is that it really boils down to your company policy. In this particular case, it was a part of the employee guidebook not to work for another company that was a direct competitor. If employees did have a second job elsewhere, they were supposed to inform the company about it. The employee here didn’t bring this up as an issue in court because he was aware of this policy.
So while there is no fixed law that can allow or disallow part-time employments, you should notify your employer if you’re getting income elsewhere. This is mainly to protect the business and ensure you’re not sharing trade secrets and company information. If you don’t notify them, you could lose your full-time job and part-time job in no time at all.