Opening a side business that competes with your employer?

QUESTION: I have been working as a hairdresser in a shop for the last 10 years. I could use extra cash and I was thinking of starting to see people in my basement after hours. I would not tell any of the existing clientele at the shop about my services but would advertise on the internet and in my neighbourhood. Do I have the right to do this or could I get fired?
ANSWER: You can always get fired for any reason or no reason, it’s just a matter of whether you’ll get pay in lieu of notice. That is what you are really asking me. Competing with your employer in any way is a breach of your fiduciary duties and if the employer finds out they can terminate you with only your last pay cheque to show for it. You will have breached your fiduciary duty not to do anything that hurts the business interests of your employer. Competing with it is top among that list.
I suppose if you lived an hour away and only advertised in your own neighbourhood where people would never drive as far as your shop you might have a claim that there was no real competition.
If that’s the case, however, why not speak to your employer and tell them what you are planning to do? If it won’t compete with their business and you are a good employee then you will have their consent. You won’t risk losing your job or hard feelings even if you are not terminated.
Ed Canning practices labour and employment law with Ross & McBride LLP, in Hamilton, representing both employers and employees. You can email him at
Ed Canning
Ed Canning
P: 905.572.5809