When you have another job and your boss schedules a mandatory meeting at the same time you're supposed to report to your second job, you may find yourself in a quandary. If the meeting is mandatory and considered working time under applicable labor and employment laws, you may have to choose between attending the meeting and losing your other job.
If you're an at-will employee -- meaning, you don't have an employment contract or agreement and your boss can let you go at any time, for any reason -- the fact that you have another job doesn't mean she can't change your schedule, working hours or job duties. And employers typically don't schedule mandatory meetings to accommodate their employees' moonlighting schedules. Before you challenge whether you're required to attend, find out whether the meeting is mandatory. Ask if it's job-related, whether you'll be required to do any of your regular job functions during the meeting and the scheduled meeting time.
Primary Vs. Secondary
To help you decide whether to attend a voluntary meeting, determine which job is your priority. Your primary job should be the one that provides your best chance for opportunity and upward mobility, if that's what you ultimately want for your career. For example, if you're an assistant editor for a magazine, working your way up the career ladder and you're a contract freelance writer during your off-time, the magazine employer might be the best shot at a long-term career or permanent employment. But if you're working for the magazine for just for the steady pay and benefits while you work on a novel for which you've got a good shot at a multimillion dollar advance, your freelance work is probably going to be your priority.
What's In It For You
If your employer is pushing you to attend a meeting and it's not a mandatory one, based on labor and employment regulations, you might wonder why your attendance is so important. Depending on the relationship you have with your boss, she could be encouraging you to attend activities that will aid in your professional development or benefit you on the company's career track. When you sense that there's more to her announcement that a meeting is being held, just ask what the implications are of you not attending.
Mandatory Working Hours
The U.S. Department of Labor says that employers can't require that employees attend meetings unless they're considered working time. Your employer cannot mandate that you attend a meeting if it's considered voluntary; scheduled before or after normal business hours and doesn't require the performance of your job duties during the meeting; and isn't specifically related to your job or your performance. This is true even if you don't have another job that poses a scheduling conflict.
Negotiate a Compromise
When you're committed to your other job, but you really want to attend the meeting for your primary job, look for an alternative. Because your secondary job might be the one that provides discretionary income, consider taking time off from that job to attend a meeting for your primary job, even if the meeting isn't mandatory. Alternatively, ask if you can attend the meeting at another time or if the meeting will be webcast.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.