Legislation Aims to Give California Workers a ‘Right to Disconnect’

SACRAMENTO, CA – Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) announced AB 2751, which guarantees California workers uninterrupted personal and family time by creating a “right-to-disconnect” from emails, texts, and calls after work hours.

The bill mandates that all California employers create and publish company-wide action plans to implement the new right-to-disconnect laws as well as requiring that all employment contracts in the state clearly outline working and non-working hours. AB 2751 also empowers the California Labor Commissioner’s office to investigate and fine employers that exhibit a pattern of right-to-disconnect violations.

In the last 15 years, modern technology has fundamentally changed the nature of work by making all workers accessible to their employers 24 hours a day 7 days a week. First adopted in 2017 in France, right-to-disconnect laws have currently been enacted in thirteen countries including Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Columbia, Greece, Mexico, Portugal, Italy, and Spain. Studies have shown that workers with the right to disconnect are healthier, happier, and more productive.

“Work has changed drastically compared to what it was just 10 years ago. Smartphones have blurred the boundaries between work and home life,”  said Assemblymember Haney. “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.”

Ranking 53rd in the world for “work-life balance,” the majority of the United States workforce says they are overwhelmed by their jobs. Studies published in the Academy of Management Proceedings found that employees that are expected to respond during off-hours face “anticipatory stress” waiting for potential work communications. This constant connectivity and overwork can lead employees to experience burnout, having detrimental effects on one’s health according to a study published by Notre Dame Journal of International & Comparative Law.  In companies without the right to disconnect, workers reported health issues such as overall fatigue, stress, and anxiety. Unsurprisingly, workers in companies with right to disconnect policies have reported higher levels of job satisfaction and fewer health issues based on a study published by the European Union.

AB 2751 makes exceptions for after work contact during emergencies or to discuss scheduling. It also makes exceptions for organized labor, allowing collective bargaining agreements to supersede right to disconnect laws. Industries with traditionally late, or erratic hours, or those that require workers to be on-call, would still be allowed to contact workers as long as non-contact hours are clearly stated in worker contracts, or on-call time is compensated.

“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. 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.  They’re providing their French, Portuguese and Irish employees clear delineation between “work time” and “non-work time,” they’re just not doing that for Californians,” said Haney. “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.”

AB 2751 would reinforce California as one of the most forward thinking, advanced states for worker’s rights by allowing employees to be free from the pressures of constant workplace availability. In turn, California businesses will benefit from having more productive and healthier workers. If passed, California would be the first in the nation with a right to disconnect law.

“California’s greatest asset is our highly skilled workforce,” said Haney. “But we are in constant competition with other states like Texas and New York who are trying to woo California workers to their states. Giving our workers the right to disconnect will be a major benefit to our workforce and makes the California tech sector better able to compete for skilled workers.”

AB 2751 has been referred to the Assembly Labor Committee and will be heard in the coming weeks.

Other Bill Introduced by Assemblymember Haney:

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2 comments

MODERATE April 2, 2024 - 9:20 am
More unnecessary nonsense from Haney...
Brian Marshall April 3, 2024 - 1:23 am
How will a RESTRICTION on CA businesses make them more "competitive", as the article states? That makes zero sense, because in other states they won't be hindered by this law. So, it will REDUCE competitiveness in the state! Also, just because CA passes this law doesn't mean any other state will, either! Why would they simply because CA did, especially since it is a restriction on businesses and will be unpopular in other states. So, if anything, it may encourage many more businesses to leave CA, espcially those on the cusp of leaving, as they have in droves over the past 4 years. This is nonsense from Haney who doesn't understand the fundamentals of work, and I don't think it will be acceptable within the tech sector, either. So, it, thankfully, probably won't pass. Why should it be implemented, as most employers in CA are not forcing people to answer emails and calls and participate in zoom calls, etc. outside of the normal day? Who does that? That's his main excuse for proposing this lousy bill. Hardly anyone, if anyone does that! If you're salaried and have to get, say a report done the next day, this bill would possibly prevent the report from being finished and would cause harm to the business because the worker had a "right to disconnect" after his stated hours. That's another thing, hours. Now, salaried employees will essentially be turned into hourly employees, potentially at some workplaces they may have to clock-in and out so the employer makes sure they're working their assigned hours and gets the most out of them since the employee now has the option to "disconnect" after those hours! It will probably restrict hourly flexibility at work, too. Say you want to go to a doctor's appointment for an hour in the morning and stay late after normal hours and work to makeup the time. Your employer may not let you do that, and you may have to use paid time off for all time off and have zero flexibility to make any time up at work after hours. My employer allows things like this, and I work in CA! So, it's another lie from an unpopular assembly member, except in San Francisco, Haney, with his equally unpopular cohort Weiner, thinking we're fools and will buy his nonsense that will only hurt business AND employees in CA!

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