Is moonlighting a dischargeable offense?

When Jeff Merlin, a young engineer in the plant engineering department, made a serious error in a cost estimate report, his supervisor, Project Leader Don Graham, was about to call him on the carpet.
By Raymond Dreyfack January 1, 1999

When Jeff Merlin, a young engineer in the plant engineering department, made a serious error in a cost estimate report, his supervisor, Project Leader Don Graham, was about to call him on the carpet. But when he learned that Merlin was moonlighting, working during the week and on weekends for another company in town, he decided more drastic action might be called for.

Confronting the engineer Graham said, “That extra job is in conflict with your responsibilities here. You’ll have to stop moonlighting if you want to keep your job with this company.”

“No way!” Merlin protested. “I need the extra money. I’ve got three kids at home to support, and I’ve got heavy expenses.”

Graham refused to back down. “A man can’t put in that kind of hours and perform at his best. It’s your choice: Quit one or the other.”

Merlin said Graham’s mandate was unfair. “For one thing,” he claimed, “the extra job has no effect on my performance; for another, moonlighting isn’t prohibited by the company.”

Graham ignored Merlin’s protest and typed up a memo recommending dismissal on the grounds of “conflict of interest and adverse effect on performance produced by fatigue caused by excessive working hours.”

“I won’t sit still for this,” Merlin threatened.

Question: Should — and could — Merlin be forced to give up his second job?

Murray’s decision: When Plant Engineer Jack Murray reviewed the facts he turned down Graham’s discharge recommendation. “Merlin’s points are well taken,” he told the project leader. “Except for this recent error his record is almost flawless. In fact, he received merit raises in recent months. On top of that, there’s no real conflict of interest since his second employer isn’t a competitor. Finally, others in the plant are permitted to moonlight. I see no reason why Merlin shouldn’t be accorded the same privilege.”