I got an Email from one of my subscribers – (s)he will remain anonymous – who asked me, “is it illegal for an employer to fire you for searching for another job?” It’s not the first time I’ve been asked this question. And it’s good enough to warrant a response via blog post. So here goes…
I got bad news for you. It’s pretty much legal for employers to fire you for pretty much any reason they want – as long it’s not in violation of any of the protections you’re granted by the United States Constitution, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Labor (DOL), or any other employment related statute, law, or regulation. And while there are plenty of them, neither are easy to substantiate nor are they worthy of your time, efforts, and headaches to do so.
Of course your employer can fire you for looking for another job. And I would too if you did it on company time. But if they simply came across your resume posted on a job board, then I’d say they were jackasses for doing so. Do you have a contract with them that guarantees your employ? Unless you’re an NBA or NFL star, I’m guessing not. How presumptuously one-sided of them. Oh they just think you’re beholden to them? What about them to you?
This actually happened to me once. My (former) employer came to me, locked me in a room, put a naked light bulb in my face, and interrogated, “what’s your resume doing on Monster? Are you looking for a job?” I casually sat back, laced my fingers behind my head, and responded, “Listen up: I’m always looking for a job. I’m a free agent, yo. And I’m willing to take my talents to whomever gives me the best looking gig. Right now that happens to be you. But tomorrow, it could very easily be someone else. Loyal? About as much as you are to me. And that’s really as far as it goes. Now, if you’ll turn out that light and unlock the door, I’ll be moving on back to my office where you’re paying me to be.”
Not every employer would take kindly to this kind of swagger so I’m certainly not suggesting you lay it down. But the point is relevant none the less. You should always be looking for a job. Always. You don’t have to put your heart and soul into it. But you should have your ear to the ground. Announce your free-agency – entice those who may be looking for someone like you. It’s that kind of activity that keeps the talent market alive and well. And it’s knowing that you’re out there that hopefully causes your employer to do everything they can to keep you engaged, challenged, motivated, rewarded, and coming back for more day after day.
Image Credit: Tobias Leeger