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What is the “right to disconnect” bill in the state legislature?

On Behalf of | May 6, 2024 | Uncategorized |

As work life and home life become increasingly intertwined for many Americans, it can be the norm for a manager to contact an employee at all hours of the day or night and throughout the weekend. People work on different schedules, and sometimes they forget that not everyone else continues their work well into the nights and weekends.

Now, California lawmakers are considering a bill that would result in consequences for managers who expect their employees to answer their phone calls or respond to their emails or texts outside of work hours, with limited exceptions. San Francisco Assemblyman Matt Haney is the representative behind what’s known as the “right to disconnect” legislation.

While this would be the first law of its kind in the U.S., France, Italy and Australia have similar laws on the books already. It’s often said that these countries and other place a bigger priority on a well-rounded life than the U.S. does.

In its current form, the bill requires California employers to include a provision in their employee contracts stating that employees don’t have to respond to after-hours work-related communications and can’t be penalized for ignoring them. There would be exceptions for communications regarding scheduling changes and for true emergencies.

This may not work in all industries

If you have a traditional 8-5 job or are an hourly employee, placing legal boundaries on managers who may cross them can be a positive. However, all jobs aren’t like that. Leaders in California’s tech industry have already spoken out against it. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian called it “a terrible idea for a law.” Others noted that those in start-up businesses could be expected to be limited to traditional workday communications.

Certainly, most people wouldn’t want to risk alienating an employer by reporting them to authorities and potentially causing them to be fined. However, some kind of incentive to prevent employers from making unreasonable demands on their employees’ time could certainly help a lot of people.

It remains to be seen what will happen with this proposed legislation. In the meantime, it’s important to stay current on California’s ever-changing employment laws – most of which benefit employees. This can help you more effectively assert and protect your rights.

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