Q. I'm continuing my regular job but after hours I'm actively seeking another job: answering ads, sending out CV's, going to interviews, etc. Do I have to inform my boss about this?
A. The basic rule is that a person is required to inform his employer about what he does after work hours only if it has some impact on his performance during working hours. Here are the main examples of what to be careful about:
1. DISTRACTION ON THE JOB
The Tosefta (a collection of laws parallel to the mishna) states:
One who engages his fellow to work in the store for half the profit, if he is a workman he may not engage in his own work because he will not pay attention to the store. (1)
It's common when someone has another job, or is looking for another job, that it occupies or distracts him during work hours. This is impermissible unless you have the employer's consent.
2. TOO TIRED TO WORK
The Jerusalem Talmud states:
A person should not work on his own [field] at night and hire himself out during the day, and shouldn't starve himself or afflict himself, because he diminishes the work of the employer.(2)
Nowadays people are accustomed to working forty hours a week in an office and not seventy hours a week of crushing labor in the field, so taking a night job doesn't automatically affect performance. But even today, a person needs to take whatever steps necessary to make sure he is at his best at work.
3. CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Jewish law obligates us to disclose material conflicts of interest, for example a garage mechanic who also fixes cars in his spare time and might compete with his employer.
However, if you don't fall into any of these categories, you have no obligation to inform your employer of your plans to move on.
Take great care that your job search doesn't impact your work in any way, but you don't need to let your employer know.
We find an example of this in the book of Genesis. The patriach Yaakov has worked for his father-in-law Lavan for twenty years; then God appears to him and tells him to return home to the land of Canaan. However, he is worried that Lavan may work against him if he tells him of his plans, so he plans his escape in secret: "Yaakov decided to go behind the back of Lavan the Aramaean, and did not tell him that he was leaving." (Genesis 31:20.) Lavan becomes angry and pursues after Yaakov and his family, but Yaakov defends his actions: "Yaakov spoke up. '[I left this way] because I was afraid,' he said. 'I thought that you might take your daughters away from me by force." (Genesis 31:31.)
We know that Yaakov would never have done anything unethical towards Lavan; indeed in the same chapter he asserts: "You know full well that I served your father with all my strength." (Genesis 31:6. Translation adapted from The Living Torah.)
We do see from this story that a person shouldn't disclose his plans from the employer without a good reason. But most employees have good reason to worry that if their job search is disclosed the employer will start looking for a replacement and might very well fire them. So you should take great care that your job search doesn't impact your work in any way, but you don't need to let your employer know. Good luck with your job search!
SOURCES: (1) Tosefta BM 4:12 (2) Jerusalem Talmud Demai 7:3
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The Jewish Ethicist presents some general principles of Jewish law. For specific questions and direct application, please consult a qualified Rabbi.