Putting Employment Issues Behind You

What Californians should know about a “right to disconnect” bill

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2024 | Wage And Hour Violations

San Francisco Assemblyman Matt Haney has introduced a bill in the state legislature that aims to free California employees from having to respond when their managers decide they need some data in the middle of the night or want to give feedback on a report over the weekend. It’s being called the “right to disconnect” act.

The proposed law is an outgrowth of the quickly increasing blurring of work and home. With more employees working remotely and being accessible 24/7, some are finding that they can’t count on an uninterrupted family dinner or child’s soccer game. While no law like this currently is on the books in the U.S., other countries (including Australia, France and Italy) that many would say have a healthier work/life balance do have similar laws.

Just what is in the proposed law?

As it’s currently written, it mandates that all employers have a written policy that would be included in employment contracts stating that employees have the right to ignore after-hours communications. There can be exceptions, such as emergencies and last-minute scheduling changes. 

Employees can report multiple violations to the California Labor Commissioner Office, which can impose fines on employers. As Assemblyman Haney says, “Workers shouldn’t be punished for not being available 24/7 if they’re not being paid for 24 hours of work.”

Those in the tech world say it’s not feasible in their industry

Perhaps not surprisingly, there’s already been strong pushback on the bill from executives and investors in the tech industry, where people often don’t work traditional hours or in traditional workplaces. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian stated simply, “This is a terrible idea for a law.” Others expanded on that idea, saying that starting a new business wasn’t a “9-to-5” endeavor.

While the bill could look very different by the time it makes it through both houses (if it does) and lands on the governor’s desk, there’s no doubt that some employers in all kinds of industries have trouble setting boundaries for what they expect of their employees.

Compared with employees in most other states, California employees have greater benefits and rights. However, it’s crucial to be aware of those rights and know how to effectively assert them. When serious issues can’t be resolved with an employer, legal guidance can be helpful.