New York City councilman proposes bill to help employees disconnect from work emails after-hours

The right to unplug would help employees draw clear lines and set boundaries in their personal lives.

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Image Credit: Connect Statesboro

Technology has blurred the lines. And for that reason, Rafael Espinal, New York City councilman, proposed a local bill that would help employees disconnect from work emails after-hours.

The bill, which was introduced on March 22, would “make it unlawful for private employees in the city of New York to require an employee to check and respond to email and other electronic communications during non-work hours.” The bill would help employees draw clear lines and set boundaries with employers when it comes to their personal lives.

“While technology has increased access to people and ideas, it’s also made it possible for employees to be on-call 24/7,” Espinal said. “We need to establish clear boundaries for employees so they can maintain a healthy work-life balance and live without fear of retaliation for not answering work communications after work hours.”

Inspired by similar bills introduced throughout Europe and modeled after Frances’ “Right to Disconnect,” if passed, the bill would mandate that companies with at least 10 employees adhere to the law no longer expecting or demanding employees respond to work emails after-hours. Written policies regarding the use of electronic devices for work-related communications would also need to be adopted by employers. Espinal believes a government intervention is needed to help employees cut the electronic leash.

Some penalties employers could face if they don’t comply with the bill’s provisions include: (i) a $50 fine for each employee who does not receive proper notice of their right to disconnect; (ii) a $250 fine for each instance of requiring an employee to check electronic communications after work hours; and (iii) fines ranging between $500 and $2,500 for retaliating against employees for asserting their rights under the bill, reported by ShepardMullin, a labor and employment law blog.

According to The Washington Post, Diane Savino, a democrat, is “working on a similar proposal for the state legislature.”

With technology so accessible these days, employees need to know when to draw the line and Espinal’s proposed bill is trying to help them do just that.

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