Do you want the right to ignore your boss’s calls after hours? A bill could make this possible

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

The state draft – AB 2751 – introduced by Representative Matt Haney (Democrat of San Francisco), would create a “right to disconnect” law that would guarantee workers uninterrupted personal and family time without calls or texts after work hours. It also requires employers to prepare and publish plans for implementing the new law into their policies and authorizes the California Labor Commissioner’s Office to investigate and fine employers who regularly violate it.

But the bill is already facing opposition from business interest groups who fear the legislation could be more trouble than it’s worth.

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

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

A survey of 41 advanced countries conducted by the Organization for Better Economic Cooperation and Development found that the United States ranked 29th in work-life balance. It was also found that 10% of US citizens worked an average of 50 hours or more per week.

Studies have shown that workers who there is a lack of a healthy work-life balance are likely to suffer from burnout, anxiety, stress and other mental illnesses. This is especially true for Women and working parents.

A 2021 survey by Mind Share Partners, a nonprofit focused on mental health in the workplace, found that 84% of respondents said their workplace contributed to at least one mental illness. Last year, the nonprofit conducted another survey and found there had still been improvements mental health problems Overall, workforce continued to be a problem.

Haney said the bill would strengthen California as a state future-oriented state and it would join about a dozen countries, including France, where the idea originated in 2017.

Last month, Australia appeared to become the latest country to pass a law giving workers the right to be unavailable.

Tyler Jochman, an attorney who has conducted research on compensation under right-to-be-unavailable laws, said such laws are important for workers’ health, especially for people working from home. In addition, it ensures that people are paid for the time they work.

However, the law could cause problems for companies that have offices in other states with different time zones. It also raises questions about the impact on pay and non-exempt employees.

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

This was among the issues raised by the California Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the bill.

In an April 1 letter, Ashley Hoffman, the chamber’s senior policy advocate, wrote that the bill is vague, fails to take into account the state’s longstanding laws regarding hours worked and exempt employees, and fails to take into account the unique nature of different industries and professions.

“The bill could effectively ban overtime unless it is scheduled in advance,” she wrote. “This would lead to significant wage losses for employees who regularly want to work overtime.”

She also expressed concern that the bill appears to apply to exempt workers, who receive a regular salary regardless of the hours worked and are not subject to laws such as overtime or meal or rest periods.

“Requiring employers to allocate ‘non-work hours’ to these exempt employees is completely contrary to the intent of being an exempt employee,” Hoffman wrote. “It also limits an employee’s flexibility.”

Haney could not immediately be reached for comment. However, in his statement announcing the bill, he said the legislation would be flexible to ensure it works for everyone, including industries that may require on-call or longer working hours.

He said there will also be an exception for contact after work in emergencies or to discuss scheduling. It also provides for exceptions to allow unions to use collective bargaining agreements to replace the law.

“Many of California’s larger employers are already complying with right-to-work laws in other jurisdictions and are choosing to rapidly grow their businesses there,” he said. “They offer their French, Portuguese and Irish employees a clear demarcation between ‘work time’ and non-work time,” but they don’t do that for Californians.”

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