There are 24 hours in the day, and an increasing number of professionals are looking to maximize every one of them with a side hustle. If you work in national security and maintain a security clearance, however, you’ll want to keep in mind not just your employer’s rules, but also the government’s adjudicative guidelines surrounding outside activities.

In the more extreme, you may think of a case from several years ago where DEA agents in New York were being federally prosecuted for ownership in a gentlemen’s club, noted Sean Bigley, security clearance attorney. But the reality is even if your outside employment isn’t that extreme, if you’re considering a side hustle, it’s important to consider your security clearance.

“The majority of clearance holders aren’t looking to purchase an ownership stake in an adult establishment,” said Bigley.  “Nonetheless, the same rules apply whether you’re baking sourdough or owning a strip club, and that is, you really have to do your homework and be careful here, and be fully transparent in what you’re doing with the government.”

There are often two elements at play – the true side hustle, where an individual has some form of employment different than their usual full-time job. Another aspect which is catching more traction today is the additional employment where the ‘bonus’ position overlaps with a separate full-time job.

“We do get cases with surprising frequency where someone has been caught manipulating an employer,” said Bigley. “Usually when this comes up the person is working remotely and juggling both jobs,” said Bigley.

The issue of juggling two full-time jobs results in issues of both time card fraud, and for contractors, also government contracting fraud. It should be obvious that the two full-time jobs is all hustle, no side – but what about employment that takes place outside of your regular-job hours.

“If it’s after hours, and it’s out of work time, that’s a good start, but it’s not the end of the inquiry,” said Bigley. “I think what a lot of people fail to think about is if there is a conflict of interest, whether perceived or actual, and there are some criminal laws that apply to this.”

In addition to security clearance concerns, you may have issues related to federal employment laws. Individuals working directly for the federal government, for instance, couldn’t represent a contractor in employment with the federal government.

Sketchy Side Hustles

If you have a side hustle you’re nervous to report to your government employer, that will likely be a bigger issue. If your employment is controversial enough that you’d prefer it to be hidden, the government will likely be concerned about how that employment could result in blackmail in the future.

“If the government finds out about it the first question they’re going to ask is ‘who knows.'” The only way to overcome it is to tell the people in your life,” said Bigley. If it’s not illegal or a conflict of interest, it may pass muster, noted Bigley. But he also advises not to bank on that, and to consider possible perception if you’re choosing an off the beaten path side hustle.


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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer