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Marc
Marc, Attorney at Law
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 350
Experience:  Experienced Attorney
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I work for two different organizations which have supported

Customer Question

Good morning. I work for two different organizations which have supported each other (not financially) up until recently. The members of the first organization have instructed the members of the second organization not to have anything to do with them. Because there is no basis to enforce this "suggestion," I have continued working for the second organization. Last night, I was asked if I am still working for the second organization. I feel it is none of their business but want to answer in kindness. These are two separate businesses with no crossover. The second organization does not want me to share that I have continued working for them because the first organization has tried to destroy the second. The details are sorted and ugly but basically based on a power struggle. How can I answer the question honestly without actually disclosing I am still working for the second organization?
JA: Because employment law varies from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?
Customer: Indiana
JA: Has anything been filed or reported?
Customer: The owner of the second company has hired a legal team for defamation of character from the first company but is holding off on moving forward, hoping the first organization will issue a public apology. So, nothing has been filed or reported at this point. The organizations are both non-profits.
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: I think that would cover it.
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Marc replied 8 months ago.

Hello. My name is Marc. I'm a licensed attorney, experienced in contract and employment law, and I will be happy to assist you.

That's quite a dilemma you have! Let me see if I understand it correctly first:

You work for 1 and 2.

1 and 2 have a relationship, but each is a distinct organization.

1 told the members of 2 that the members of 2 must divest from 2.

1 has no business telling the members of 2 what to do.

Therefore, you continue to work for 2, while still working for 1 also.

Someone at 1 asked you if you're still involved with 2.

2 doesn't want you to reveal to 1 that you are still involved with 2.

You would rather not tell 1 that you are still involved with 2.

But you feel compelled to provide an answer.

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There are two ways to analyze this catch 22: logically and pragmatically. I'll do both.

Logically, if you tell 1 that you are still working at 2, then you will offend both 1 and 2. You will offend 1 because 1 doesn't want you to be working at 2; and you will offend 2 because 2 doesn't want you to tell 1 that you are working at 2. Therefore, if you disclose to 1 that you are at 2, you could lose both jobs. Thus, you have a conflict of interest which mandates a decision: whether you want to work for 1 or 2. You can no longer work for both. As such, if you prefer 2 over 1, then you must not answer 1's inquiry.

Pragmatically, I sense that you prefer to work for 2 rather than 1. You've described 1 in a way that indicates that you do not approve of its conduct (trying to destroy 2). Perhaps, therefore, 2 is the better organization to work for if you must choose.

I understand, however, that you would rather not have to choose. But the fact of the matter is you have clear instructions from 2 not to disclose your involvement with them. The fact that 2 has retained counsel indicates that it is very sensitive and serious about its position and that it has a strong basis for its instructions not to disclose. On the other hand, there seems no legitimate basis for 1 to require you to divest from 2 or to require you to disclose that you are still working at 2.

Of course, you cannot lie and tell 1 that you are not working at 2. So alternatively, consider answering 1 in the following manner: "I am pleased to continue working hard for the benefit of [insert whatever cause(s) 1 and 2 have in common]." This way, you're answering honestly that you are working in the same field and/or for the same cause, but without actually naming 2.

I wish you luck in handling this dilemma and I hope both 1 and 2 resolve their differences peacefully. Please let me know if you have any further questions. Otherwise, if I have helped you to better understand your issues and options, please be sure to rate my answer, since that is the only way I can receive credit.

Kind regards,

Marc