California Bill Would Grant Workers ‘Right To Disconnect’

A novel new proposal in the California legislature would grant workers in the state the “right to disconnect” from their employers during off hours. Exceptions are built in for contact over emergencies and scheduling as well as union workers.

The Golden State is notorious for also being a nanny state, and the leftist bastion rarely encounters a regulation it does not endorse. But this newest measure is a reflection of the ascension of remote work and the sometimes murky boundaries between occupation and home life.

The bill is the brainchild of Democratic Assemblymember Matt Haney of San Francisco. 

It would fine firms $100 for a “pattern of violation.” This is defined by the proposal as at least three documented occasions where the employee’s right to disconnect was broached.

California would mandate that companies and workers enter written agreements on specific hours during which work-related communications are forbidden. 

Certain emergency circumstances would require employees to respond to their bosses. These include an “unforeseen situation that threatens an employee, customer or the public; disrupts or shuts down operations; or causes physical or environmental damage.”

The bill further recognized some industries have traditionally late and unpredictable schedules. There are also those that require workers to be on-call, and they would continue to be permitted to contact employees who are off the clock.

However, these communications must be specifically agreed upon in signed contracts or standby time is compensated by the employer. 

It is telling that the bill specifically excluded union workers. This indicated the strong likelihood that organized labor is behind the push, as unions still enjoy significant influence in Democratic California. 

Haney cited rapid advancements in communications technology as the impetus for the proposal.

In a statement, he noted that “work has changed drastically compared to what it was just 10 years ago. Smartphones have blurred the line between work and home life.” 

The Democrat added that employees should not be punished for not being on call 24/7 if they are not being paid to work 24 hours. Public and private employees would be covered by the “right to disconnect” if it were to become law.

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