Equifax used its own worker surveillance product to spy on workers fired.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans juggled two full-time jobs in September, and nearly 4 million more mixed full-time with part-time work, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. This “overemployment” trend has become so popular through the pandemic that Wired reported that some workers described holding down two jobs as the cure to burnout experienced from having just one job. For remote workers, in particular, the ability to generate extra income by doing two jobs at once became so normalized, The Washington Post reported last week, that some remote workers considered it “fair” to hide a second job from their primary employers.
Some remote workers learned the hard way that not all employers consider it fair, though. This week it was reported that the credit-reporting service Equifax proved unwilling to sit idly by as its employees attempted to keep second jobs on the sly. According to Business Insider, Equifax “used one of its own products, The Work Number, to help it suss out who was holding down multiple jobs simultaneously” and then fired 24 out of 25 remote workers that its investigation uncovered. Some Equifax remote workers were juggling as many as three jobs.
For its investigation, Business Insider reviewed company emails, spoke to current and fired Equifax employees, and reviewed internal Equifax documents. Insider found that Equifax used The Work Number to comb through “work histories and activity records for more than 1,000 employees and contractors” and see any overlapping payment periods reported by other companies. This information, Insider reported, is usually only provided to individuals seeking their own reports, while third parties would typically receive a different version that doesn’t provide such granular information. In addition to dozens of workers Equifax then fired, the company reportedly flagged 283 contractors also suspected to be dually employed, but Business Insider was unable to verify if those contractors were also fired.
“Equifax recently conducted an investigation into a number of employees suspected of holding dual, full-time employment that conflicted with their roles at our company,” Equifax spokesperson Kate Walker told Ars in a statement. “As a result, several employees who violated our company code of conduct and outside
Equifax used other employee surveillance methods to determine which workers were violating its employee code of conduct—which Walker told Insider specifies that employees “always need to disclose and discuss outside employment with your supervisor.” Some workers were suspected of calling into interviews with Equifax from their other job sites, and Equifax began noting any employee clocking “abnormally low VPN usage,” below 13 hours weekly, as a red flag.
Equifax employees were informed of terminations in a company-wide email that unsettled some. One fired worker who spoke to Insider said he wasn’t aware of Equifax’s code of conduct when he took his second job. A current employee told Insider that Equifax shouldn’t be using the data it collects for The Work Number to “spy” on its own employees.
The Work Number collects employment records from 2.5 million companies, Insider reported, and when two Insider reporters ran their own reports on the service, payment periods for “almost every job both had ever held was listed in the report.”
Although Equifax’s investigation, which it at one point dubbed “Project Home Alone,” targeted employees with two or more jobs, the company said that this violation wasn’t the only reason that 24 employees were terminated.
“Equifax followed all applicable laws in its handling of this situation,” Walker told Ars. “These employees were terminated because of multiple factors, including in many cases their own admission that they had a secondary full-time position, which prevented them from fulfilling their full-time obligations to Equifax.”
In its story on overemployment, Wired reported that people drawn to the trend found support on Reddit, Discord, and a website called Overemployed.com. In forums, the dual-employed and those aspiring to take on multiple jobs discuss strategies to do it all unnoticed. It seems implied across all forums that employees will need to hide their other jobs from each employer, but Overemployed.com assures visitors that “it’s legal to work multiple remote jobs.” The website compiled a guide that breaks down labor laws in different states.
However, on the very same page, Overemployed.com also foretold of the Equifax terminations by warning any website visitors that employers still seemingly retain all the power: “The truth is, you can get fired at any time whether you work just one or multiple remote jobs.”
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