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I have two offers from two companies, both for salaried, 9-5, remote, full-time, software engineering jobs. I am skilled at my trade and can easily handle the expected work load of both jobs at once. My questions are:

  1. If I can get both companies to forego any kind of "you can't work for anyone else" clause in our employment contract, can I work both jobs with telling either company about the other?

  2. If I'm on salary (not hourly), i.e. I'm presumably being paid for my output, not my time, is it illegal to effectively share the same time slot (9am-5pm) between the two jobs?

  3. Assuming all of this goes well, is this illegal from the government's perspective? When I file taxes, will the IRS ask, "what's going on here?" and get someone to arrest me?

Needless to say, I would do each job's work on the company-provided laptop, and not share any information between the two companies.

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    How do you plan attending to two completely different meetings at 9am ? – Ángel Nov 12 '20 at 0:30
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    I assume from "IRS" that you're in the United States; I've tagged your question accordingly, but feel free to update it if I'm wrong. – Ryan M Nov 12 '20 at 0:58
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    Each company is paying for 8 hours of work. 8 full hours of work. How are you going to deliver this when you are giving both employers not only the same number of hours of work, but the same actual hours of the day? What happens when one job becomes more demanding at a moments notice (urgent production issue)? What happens when both become demanding (urgent production issue at both jobs at the same time)? What you are proposing is a terrible idea, regardless of the legal aspects - and I'm pretty sure there would be some form of fraud potentially involved here. – Moo Nov 12 '20 at 0:59
  • @Moo: "Each company is paying for 8 hours of work. 8 full hours of work." Well, I think that's the question. Is the company in fact paying for 8 (specific) hours of work, or are they merely paying for the successful completion of assigned duties, however and whenever OP may choose to do them? – Nate Eldredge Nov 12 '20 at 3:48
  • @NateEldredge pretty much every employer I have known expects an employee to be available for a full working day when they set a full working day - otherwise they wont set the requirement of a working day. And all of that ignores my other points about availability - plus there are other things here to think about, such as context switching on tasks between the two companies - the more you do that, the less productive you are. Unless this person gets explicit permission from both employers, they are going to find themselves sacked as soon as one finds out - and its still unethical. – Moo Nov 12 '20 at 4:11
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The IRS does not care, the only people who will care are your employers. If they find out, they may fire you. Whether or not this rises to the level of fraud whereby they could sue you depends on what false thing you said to get the job offer. You might get a good idea by reading the employment contract to see what makes you think this is a "9-to-5" job, and exactly what you are supposed to do. For example if both contracts say that you will work exclusively on the assignments by company A / B between 9 and 5 EST, M-F, and you agree to this, then you have materially misrepresented what you will do, which is fraud. But if the contract simply says that you will get the job done and will "make yourself available" for some of those hours, then it's not obviously fraud. Still, they can fire you if they don't like what you're doing. An alternative is that you could ask if they would allow you to burn the candle at both ends, which avoids any issue of fraud. If you're that good, you can offer one or both of them a week of trial dual-employment for a reduced rate, to persuade them.

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  • Many jobs in the US have no written employment contract at all, so this may not help. – Nate Eldredge Nov 12 '20 at 3:49
  • “The IRS does not care” so long as you pay the right tax - this may require telling one or both employers that you have another job. – Dale M Nov 12 '20 at 5:01
  • I would advise against the "trial dual-employment for a reduced rate" as well as "ask[ing] if they would allow you to burn the candle at both ends", since each scenario will prompt both companies to be more demanding and nit-pickier than they initially intended (even if only to preserve the reduced rate). If the contracts reasonably purport that the intent is to get the job done (plus maybe a sort of on-call availability 9-to-5). it is lawful for the OP to take both jobs without having to inform either employer. The rest of the answer addresses the OP's question very well. – Iñaki Viggers Nov 12 '20 at 10:53
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This is legal, but probably not practical

The biggest problem is that you're going to have a hard time finding two employers where you wouldn't be violating either employment agreement. Let's assume they don't prohibit you from having another full-time job (many do).

You'd also need to make sure that you aren't obligated to assign the intellectual property rights of any work you do while employed there. Some states, like California, limit the scope of these requirements, most relevantly to work related to the company's current or future businesses, which would help.

You'd also need to avoid violating your NDA. This could create a conflict of interest if the businesses are in related industries and you have confidential information from one business that could affect decisions made by the other.

Finally, they could just fire you if they found out...or even if they don't. Software engineering requires a lot of mental energy, and it's unlikely that someone could be a high performer at two jobs for a long period of time.

Your taxes will be more complicated due to withholding, possibly overlapping contributions to your 401(k), etc. But it's not illegal to have two jobs, so as long as you do your taxes properly, you're okay from the IRS's perspective.

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    "it's unlikely that someone could be a high performer at two jobs for a long period of time". Some people are really proficient. Regardless, that is neither an argument of law nor something the OP needs to worry about (the OP surely pondered that aspect already). The post is explicit in that the OP would "not share any information between the two companies", whence the remark about the NDA is not something of which the OP needs to be reminded. – Iñaki Viggers Nov 12 '20 at 11:01

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