Nearly seven million Americans were working multiple jobs at the end of 2013, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics update. Popular second jobs include bartending, freelancing, and providing child care, reports

Running e-commerce businesses from work is becoming another popular option, a Bigcommerce survey found. The survey showed eight out of ten of online retailers were working on e-business during lunch breaks, and three out of ten were working at night. If you're moonlighting at a second job, should you tell your boss? Opinions and situations vary, but ethics and prudence dictate a few general guidelines.

Know Your Employer's Policy

Joe Wallin, an attorney focused on startup companies, says you should find out if your employer has a formal moonlighting policy before potentially risking your job. Some employers do have explicit policies forbidding moonlighting, and if you live in a state where employment is "at will," you can be fired for violating this policy under certain conditions. Such policies may also require you to notify your employer if you intend to work extra hours. You may also be required to let them know the nature of the work and who you will be working for. This is partly designed to prevent intellectual property and other trade secrets being shared with competitors.

To avoid running into trouble on these fronts, make sure that you know your employer's policy so you avoid violating it. Refer to your hiring documents, employee handbooks, and other paperwork for reference. Consult an attorney if you're not sure about the meaning of something in your documentation.

Avoid Misusing Your Employer's Resources

Depositphotos_37123739_xsEven if your employer doesn't explicitly forbid moonlighting, it's important to follow certain guidelines to avoid conflicts of interest. The New York City Ethicist advises those considering moonlighting to do your outside work on your own time. Use your own equipment and supplies. Keep employer information confidential. Don't misuse your position with one employer to improperly influence the other. All this boils down to not misusing your employer's resources.

In an age of BYOD and e-commerce, avoiding misuse of employer computer equipment and mobile devices can become a sticky issue. If you want to use your lunch break to check in on your e-business, it's best to use your own resources to avoid any potential conflict. You might purchase a second iPad ( or mobile phone for your e-commerce business. Some mobile devices now come with features that let employers create a partition between personal and work applications and data.

Be Aware of Disclosure Requirements

Some employers do not forbid moonlighting, but have a policy requiring disclosure. For instance, the Stanford School of Medicine makes moonlighting disclosure a requirement for its cardiovascular fellowship program. If you're under this type of agreement, be sure to disclose any information that is a condition of your employment.

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