State Bill Would Give Workers the 'Right to Disconnect'

It's the brainchild of California Democrat Matt Haney
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2024 2:50 PM CDT
State Bill Would Give Workers the 'Right to Disconnect'
Democratic Assembly member Matt Haney speaks on a bill at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, July 10, 2023.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Emailing an employee during their time off could become punishable by law in California, the first state in the US weighing employees' "right to disconnect." Such laws are already on the books in 13 countries and just over the US-Canada border in Ontario. California could potentially become the first US state to join them. California State Assembly member Matt Haney, a Democrat, on Tuesday introduced bill AB2751; it would require employers to specify an employee's "compensated" hours and refrain from contacting them outside of those hours. There are exemptions, including for emergencies, last-minute scheduling, and collective bargaining, per NBC News. Otherwise, labor authorities could investigate companies reported for contacting employees during personal hours and issue fines.

The bill is a "necessary adaptation" in response to "an epidemic of burnout," Amira Barger, a professor of management at California State University, East Bay, tells NBC. But the California Chamber of Commerce argues the state already has strict labor laws that discourage work outside scheduled hours. It adds the bill doesn't allow for different working arrangements and "will effectively subject all employees to a rigid working schedule," per the San Francisco Chronicle.

There's also opposition from the technology sector. As the Chronicle notes, "in the startup world, being online or available all the time is part of surviving as a company." Haney, who represents the 17th district covering part of San Francisco, counters that "workers shouldn't be punished for not being available 24/7 if they're not being paid for 24 hours of work." Indeed, since "California created many of these technologies that allow people to be available 24/7, we should also lead the way in making sure we can make them sustainable for work-life balance," he says. The bill, which Haney hopes will boost the state's competitiveness for workers, has been referred to the Assembly Labor Committee, per USA Today. (More California stories.)

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