Full disclosure of my husband's employment at job interview

I’ve applied for a good job at a company that would be a direct competitor of the company my husband works at. They are extremely competitive (his company has been losing multi-million dollar bids by hundreds of dollars lately) construction-related companies. Do I have any obligation to disclose in a possible interview that my husband works at their competition? I wouldn’t be working in the bidding department, and neither does Jim, but he is in a management position with his company, and I would be in accounting. What do y’all think?


What if they ask?

They probably won’t, but some companies do. In that case you’d pretty much have to tell them. They can easily find out anyway, I believe.

Perhaps I should expand on that; beyond obligation (legal or otherwise), is there an ethical issue where the company would look for a reason to get rid of me later when (and it would be when, not if) they found out?

You snuck in while I was composing - they probably wouldn’t ask, but in casual conversation it would eventually come out - I am not someone who would censor my speech like that.

Absolutely you should reveal it. What do you think they’ll do when they find out on their own? Fire you, of course, and you’ll get a reputation for corporate espionage. It’s much better when the information comes from you. You can then use this to show how you can respect confidentiality and know the industry.

The real question is whether or not you should have put it on your application letter.

I was thinking it would be more appropriate in a phone call, if they were to call me in for an interview; “By the way, I feel you should know right up front that my husband works for X Incorporated.”

Yeah, the more I think of it, the better it would be for me to disclose as soon as possible. Working in accounting, I would have access to financial information. As a professional, I would never disclose it, but I can see that it should be the company’s call, whether they think I would be in a conflict position or not.

Not yet, and probably not even later. At this stage of the application process, companies in Cat Whisperer’s jurisdiction are severely limited in what they can ask of her. They may not, for example, ask her directly if she is married and to whom and about what he does. Nor may they perform any kind of background check on her.

Later, they can do certain checks, but only if they have some reference or connection to the position. I don’t see where “what does your husband do?” would be involved anywhere; but I can see where conflicts of interest might come into play, if appropriately worded (and legal) questions are asked.

Cat, if you really want this job, I would suggest that you stay quiet for now. Sell yourself as best you can. That way, even if things come out later, they may think twice about letting you go. Even if that happens, you have certain rights that you are entitled to under certain conditions.

You know that I practice a lot of employment law in your province–if you like, PM me for further details.

I think I’d keep things on the down low and go with Spoons’ ideas.
Construction companies are HARDCORE competitive, and I would be surprised if they’d even consider you if they knew your husband worked for a competitor.

Legally…I don’t think there’d be anything they could do, once they hired you.

Stick to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell for this one.
If they ask…oh well.

I wouldn’t say a word about it, even if I were offered and accepted the job.

I’m excellent at and have no problem keeping my personal business to myself in the workplace. The most I would say in this situation would be to reveal my husband’s job function and not the type of company–and then change the subject. I also don’t ask co-workers a lot of personal questions either.

Being asked at an employment interview about one spouse’s job (regardless of what the job may be) is a potential EO discrimination issue under Title VII.

Very interesting comments; thanks for all the input.

I say absolutely tell them.

If the two companies are really that competitive.

Your hubby is in management, you will have access to sensitive information. If you keep your relationship a secret, it is tantamount to admitting that you know the company would have a problem with it.

I don’t see how it end other way but badly.

Do you really want to fight a civil case against industrial espionage? I guess that spoons would be able to offer better legal advice than me, but if I were the boss in either situation, I would certainly want to know, and if I found out accidently I would be doing all in my power to make life tough for you.

Looking at the website for the company I applied at, I see they are directly competitive - as in, bidding on exactly the same jobs. In spite of the legalities of them not being allowed to ask me, I think I really do have an ethical obligation to let them know. I’m not a hiding stuff person, and the reality is that a company can find ways to get rid of a person they don’t want working there, legal or not. I think full disclosure up front would end up being less trouble for me in the long run.

Over time it’s very hard to not talk about where your spouse works. Even if you just say the business he’s in people might ask the specific place. Best to go ahead and tell them.

You do have an ethical obligation to let them know. It’s a material fact which is directly relevant to the decision to hire you.

I was in a situation where I had a potential exposure to a non-compete clause that I signed with a company who I contracted for some work previously. I got a job with another company, but revealed the fact that there was some potential issue with the non-compete. Why? Because it was relevant to the decision to hire me - did NewCo want to hire a 6-figure employee who might have some of his time+energies diverted fighting a non-compete?

Fortunately, they did. My new bosses attitude was “It’s your fight, not mine.”

Nothing became of it, btw. Except for me giving a lawyer a $2k “loan” for a year.

Right, but what if you had a potential lawsuit hanging over your head that related to a workman falling off your roof? That also could divert your later time and energy, but it doesn’t seem like the employer’s business. How is this different? It’s her husband’s job, not her own.

I’d probably tell them just because I couldn’t stand to get a job and worry about keeping a secret. But I don’t think there’s an obligation.

It’s material, so there is an obligation.

She works (or will work) in accounting. He works in management. She (potentially) has access to information that will be VERY VALUABLE to her husbands company. Even an inadvertent slip could cost millions:

“Yeah, Chris is pissed off because we’ve cut sales commissions by 10% and that… Oh, shit, I guess I shouldn’t have said that, should I?”

“Bob said we need to cut gross margins by 5% to remain… oh, shit, I just did it again, didn’t I?”

The example you gave is not analogous (sp) as it wasn’t a work-related situation. In regards to the non-compete, there could have been demands on my new company (and co-workers) time, money, and effort.

I will say that I didn’t notice that Cat W. was located in Alberta. In this case, she should defer to Spoon’s advice as this is his/her field of expertise.

Yes you should reveal it. In the end it’ll just save everyone a lot of time. Some companies have clauses that prevent workers from working at competitors or having close relationships with competitors.

The actual laws that deal with non-compete clauses and family relationships are complex and sometimes courts will uphold them and sometimes clauses like these don’t get upheld. In general the right of a person to work is paramount. But that parmount is applied to a specific trade.

This is what I would do, I would go on the interview and not say anything. If asked tell them, but don’t volunteer. IF and after you get the job offer than say “You know it never occured to me till just now but my husband works for “Acme” our (say our not your) competitor.” Will this be an issue.

Once you have an offer it’s harder (but not impossible) for them to withdraw it. No doubt you will be required to sign a confidentiallity agreement with the company, if hired.