Is Moonlighting Set to End?

September 24, 2022

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (devil/satan)” – Mathew 6-24, New Testament of the Bible.

This 2000-years-old dictum has relevance even today. Before we go further, for the uninitiated moonlighting is holding a side job, also informally called a side hustle or side gig, is an extra job that persons take in addition to their primary job in order to supplement their income.

The most recent development on the subject was flashed across the media earlier this week (September 21) as excerpted below.

Wipro takes a stand, sacks 300 staffers for moonlighting

The IT services industry is waging a war against moonlighting. Wipro chairman Rishad Premji on Wednesday said the company has fired 300 employees in the past few months for working for direct competitors while being on the rolls of Wipro. Addressing an event of All India Management Association (AIMA) in Delhi, Premji said, "Employees can have a transparent dialogue with the organisation about their second or weekend work, but we discovered 300 employees who were working for direct competitors. There is no place for them."

The disclosure comes just weeks after he described moonlighting as "cheating - plain and simple" in a tweet. And it comes on the heels of a stern email from Infosys to its employees saying disciplinary action, including termination, would be taken if anyone was found to be moonlighting.

The massive talent shortage in technology, combined with the greater privacy provided by work-from-home, seems to have encouraged a significant section to moonlight in their spare time.

Moonlighting is the practice of working for an external paid project, while being full-time on the rolls of a company. Most companies have stringent rules that prohibit employees from taking up external work, except with mutual agreement.

While some new-age companies like Swiggy and Cred have taken a more generous view of the phenomenon, much of the IT services industry has over the past few days rallied against it. TCS COO N Ganapathy Subramaniam has been quoted as saying that moonlighting is an ethical issue and that the IT sector would lose out from such practices in the long term. Sandip Patel, MD of IBM India, noted that everyone who is hired signs a contract that they would be working full-time for IBM, and "notwithstanding what they can do with the rest of their time, it (moonlighting) is not ethical."

Infosys's email to employees noted that moonlighting is not permitted as per the employees' code of conduct. It used taglines like 'No two-timing, no moonlighting' and 'No double lives', and said employees cannot take up other assignments during or outside business hours.

Brent Hyder, president and chief people officer in California-based Salesforce, said the company does not allow moonlighting. "If you work for us full-time, you do not work somewhere else full-time. We do not plan to change that," he said.

One exception in the IT services world was C P Gurnani, CEO of TechM, who said the moonlighting problem was not rampant, and he may consider changing the company policy to allow employees to pursue another job.

Vikram Shroff, head of HR law at law firm Nishith Desai Associates, said that IT companies typically build anti-moonlighting provisions into the employment contract, HR policies, and code of conduct, which courts may enforce to protect the primary employer's interests.

However, IT union Nascent Information Technology Employees Senate (NITES) believes the employees have a case, and described Wipro's move to terminate contracts as unethical. "We have urged the employees to come forward and join us as we are gearing up for a legal battle against illegal clauses mentioned in the offer letter," NITES president Harpreet Singh Saluja said.

There is a social justice angle to moonlighting. In the backdrop of widespread unemployment, moonlighting deprives full-time employment to the jobless.

The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response is welcome in the format given below (Pl. scroll down a bit). Welcome to reason.


Marital Moonlighting

Marital moonlighting and resistance to it is reflected in the following lines of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatic poet in Taming the Shrew:

I will be master of what is mine own;

She is my goods, my chattels she is my house,

My household stuff, my field, my barn,

My house, my ox, my ass, my everything;

And here she stands, touch her whoever dare.

Moonlighting in marital affairs can be crude, gentle and sophisticated and devoid of dismissal letters as in the case of Wipro.

A man of means had discreetly kept a mistress in a flat and visited her at his convenience. The wife knew about the matter - but was helpless to confront her husband. So, while in bed and the husband was in deep sleep in a drunken state, she would caress her husband’s head and pluck out his black hair so that he becomes unattractive to his mistress. In the flat of the mistress, she plucked out his white hair so he remains young and attractive for her.

Today this strategy will not work because being bald has become fashionable and men go to saloons to constantly remain bald.



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By John B Monteiro
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