APEGGA members with professional practice or ethics questions are welcome to mail them to Ray Chopiuk, P.Eng., Director, Professional Practice, APEGGA, 1500 Scotia One, 10060 Jasper AV NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 4A2; fax them to 780-426-1877; or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q I work full time as a professional engineer for my employer. An acquaintance has approached me to personally do some engineering work on a small project that he would like to complete. Does APEGGA have any rules about moonlighting that would help me decide whether it would be ethical to accept the offer?
A None of the five rules under APEGGA’s Code of Ethics address the issue of moonlighting directly. In general terms, however, the rules speak about matters such as “competence and knowledge” and “integrity, honesty, fairness and objectivity.” The amplification and commentary in the Guideline for Ethical Practice also do not deal with the moonlighting question explicitly, although they do raise matters concerning conflict of interest, maintaining confidentiality, acting fairly, etc.
The first thing that can be said is that APEGGA has no rules that would prevent moonlighting outright. While previous versions of the Code of Ethics used language such as, “a member shall act as a faithful agent or trustee toward his or her employer,” the current version does not. Under Rule 3, which deals with integrity, honesty, fairness and objectivity, the amplification notes that professionals should faithfully discharge their responsibilities to clients and employers, always acting with fairness and justice to all.
Without knowing the details of your present employment or the specifics of the work you’ve been asked to do, I can only offer some general comments to consider. First of all, you should check for any policies that your employer might have regarding moonlighting and abide by those policies. In the absence of any such policies, and even in their presence, it would certainly be prudent to discuss the matter with your employer.
This would especially be the case if your employer happens to be a consultant and the work is in the company’s area of practice. Even work outside the company’s areas of practice should be discussed, since your capabilities could be seen by your employer as an opportunity for business development. Although non-consulting employers may not have the same kind of concerns, they could have others, such as the demand on your time by the extra-curricular work.
You should also consider if any potential conflict of interest might arise regarding the extra-curricular work and your present responsibilities. Typically, professionals would be expected to avoid situations that would place them in a conflict of interest.
However, if you are able to openly inform the affected parties, i.e., your current employer and your potential “client,” and everyone agrees that they have no issues regarding the arrangement, there should be no reason not to accept the offer from that standpoint.
Confidentiality may come in to play, as well, either from the aspect of the proprietary nature of the work itself or from the aspect of competitiveness between the employer and your client. Your client simply might not want your employer to know what your client is doing. That could prevent you from seeking permission from your employer to moonlight and, thus, discourage you from accepting the offer.
There is also the matter of your professional competence to undertake the extra work being offered. If the work is in the same area as your normal job, that should not be a concern (other than the aforementioned potential conflict of interest). Supposedly, you would not even be considering the offer if the proposed work was outside your area of knowledge and experience.