Want the right to ignore your boss’ calls after hours? A bill could make that happen

A San Francisco lawmaker is proposing a bill that would make California the first state in the nation to give workers the right to ignore after-hours calls, emails and text messages from their employers.

The state bill – AB 2751 – introduced by Rep. Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), would create a “right to disconnect” law that would guarantee workers uninterrupted personal and family time, with no calls or messages after work hours. It also requires employers to create and publish plans to implement the new law in their policies and empowers the California Labor Commissioner’s Office to investigate and fine employers who habitually violate it.

But the bill is already facing opposition from business advocacy groups who fear the legislation will create more headaches than it is worth.

Haney said the bill aims to establish a line between work and home life that in recent years has been blurred by smartphones and the shift to remote work pushed even further by the pandemic.

“The job has changed dramatically from what it was just 10 years ago,” Haney said. “People need to be able to spend time with their families without being constantly interrupted at the dinner table or at their children’s birthday party, without worrying about their phones and answering work.”

A survey of 41 countries advanced by the Organization for Better Economic Cooperation and Development found that the United States ranked 29th in work-life balance. The study also found that 10% of U.S. residents work an average of 50 hours or more per week.

Studies showed that workers who lack of a healthy work-life balance are likely to suffer from burnout, anxiety, stress and other mental health issues. This is particularly the case for working women and parents.

A 2021 survey by Mind Share Partners, a nonprofit focused on workplace mental health, found that 84% of respondents said their workplace contributed to at least one mental health issue. Last year, the nonprofit conducted another survey and found that improvements had been made, but mental health problems Overall, the situation continues to weigh on the workforce.

Haney said the bill would strengthen California as Avant-garde state and it would join a dozen countries including France, where the idea was born in 2017.

Last month, Australia appeared to be the latest country to approve legislation granting workers the right to disconnect.

Tyler Jochman, an attorney who has conducted research on compensation under right-to-disconnect laws, said such legislation is important for worker health, especially for people working from home. It also ensures that people are paid for the time they work.

But the law could pose some problems for companies that have branches in other states with different time zones. It also raises questions about the impact it will have on wages and non-exempt employees.

“We could see a redefinition of the employee,” Jochman said.

These are some of the issues raised by the California Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the bill.

In an April 1 letter, Ashley Hoffman, the chamber’s top policy advocate, wrote that the bill was vague and did not take into account long-standing state laws regarding hours worked and exempt employees, and did not take into account the uniqueness of different industries and professions.

“The bill could effectively ban overtime unless it is planned in advance,” she wrote. “This would result in a significant loss of wages for workers who regularly want to work overtime. »

She also raised concerns that the bill appears to apply to exempt employees who receive a regular salary regardless of hours worked and are not subject to laws such as overtime or requirements in terms of meals or rest.

“Requiring employers to allocate ‘non-worked hours’ to these exempt workers completely defeats the intent of being an exempt employee,” Hoffman wrote. “It also restricts an employee’s flexibility.”

Haney could not immediately be reached for comment. But as part of his statement announcing the bill, he said the legislation was flexible enough to ensure it works for everyone, including sectors that may require on-call work or longer hours.

He said it would also make an exception for after-work contact in case of emergency or to discuss schedules. It also provides exceptions allowing unions to allow collective agreements to supersede the law.

“Many large California employers already comply with right-to-disconnect laws in other countries and are choosing to rapidly expand their businesses in those locations,” he said. “They offer their French, Portuguese and Irish employees a clear demarcation between ‘work time’ and non-work time, but they simply don’t do it for Californians.”

California Daily Newspapers

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