California bill aims to stop employers from reaching out during off hours

A new California bill aims to prevent employers from reaching out to their employees outside of work hours. 

The bill, AB 2751, introduced by State Assemblymember Matt Haney, aims to bring greater work-life balance to employees in California by creating a “right-to-disconnect” from calls, texts and emails after work hours. 

The legislation would have California companies better define “compensated” hours and implement a company-wide policy to adhere to the “right-to-disconnect laws.” 

The state’s labor commission could investigate and fine employers for breaching employees’ personal time. 

“Work has changed drastically compared to what it was just 10 years ago. Smartphones have blurred the boundaries between work and home life,” Haney said in a statement. “Workers shouldn’t be punished for not being available 24/7 if they’re not being paid for 24 hours of work. People have to be able to spend time with their families without being constantly interrupted at the dinner table or their kids’ birthday party, worried about their phones and responding to work.”

The bill has exceptions where employers could contact workers during collective bargaining, emergencies and scheduling.

“This bill has a lot of flexibility to make sure that it works for all California businesses and types of employment, including those sectors that may require on-call work or longer hours,” Haney said. “Many of California’s larger employers are already abiding by right-to-disconnect laws in other countries and choosing to grow their companies rapidly in those places. 

“We’ve crafted it in a way that addresses the recent changes to work brought on by new technology, but to also be pro California business. California businesses will be more competitive for desperately needed workers as a result of this law.”

California Chamber of Commerce is opposing the bill. 

“The bill will effectively subject all employees to a rigid working schedule and prohibit communication between employers and employees absent an emergency,” Senior Policy Advocate at the California Chamber of Commerce, Ashley Hoffman, said in a letter opposing the bill. “This blanket rule is a step backwards for workplace flexibility.”  

“It fails to consider California’s longstanding laws regarding hours worked, exempt employees, and fails to account for the uniqueness of different industries and professions. It would prevent the Governor and State agencies from contacting their staff outside of normal work hours, which would lead to basic functions of the state being imperiled.” 

The bill was assigned to the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee and is expected to be heard in the coming weeks. 

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