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‘Right to disconnect’ bill would let workers ignore after-hours calls

Decline phone call
Photo: sesame/Getty Images

Sacramento, CA — Legislation recently introduced in California would help ensure workers have uninterrupted personal time by establishing a “right to disconnect” from emails, texts and calls outside of work hours.

Introduced April 1 by Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), A.B. 2751 would require all employers to create and publish companywide action plans to ensure compliance with the law. All employment contracts would have to clearly define working and nonworking hours.

The bill also would empower the California Labor Commissioner’s Office to investigate and fine employers who exhibit a pattern of right-to-disconnect violations.

The first law of this type was adopted in France in 2017, Haney says in a press release, adding that 13 countries have enacted similar laws. They include Australia, Italy, Mexico and Spain.

The bill includes exceptions for after-work contact when it relates to emergencies or discussing schedules, as well as for organized labor activity, which allows collective bargaining agreements to supersede right-to-disconnect laws.

For industries with late or erratic hours, or those that require workers to be on call, employers still would be allowed to contact employees if noncontact hours are clearly stated in worker contracts or if on-call time is compensated.

“Work has changed drastically compared to what it was just 10 years ago,” Haney said in the release. “Smartphones have blurred the boundaries between work and home life. Workers shouldn’t be punished for not being available 24/7 if they’re not being paid for 24 hours of work.”

The bill has been referred to the state Assembly’s Labor Committee.

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