California Legislature Considers Bill Offering Right to “Disconnect” from Work

California Legislature Considers Bill Offering Right to “Disconnect” from Work

California lawmakers are considering “the right to disconnect from work.”

Assembly Bill (AB) 2751 would require a public or private employer to create a workplace policy that provides employees with the right to disconnect from communications from the employer during nonworking hours with a few exceptions.

What is the “Right to Disconnect”?

The bill defines the “right to disconnect” as “the right to ignore communications from the employer during nonworking hours.” “Nonworking hours” means hours before and after an employee’s assigned hours of work, whether stated in their job description or stated otherwise. This is to be established by written agreement between an employer and employee.

However, an employer may contact an employee during nonworking hours for an emergency or scheduling. “Scheduling” means changes to a schedule within 24 hours, and “emergency” means any of the following unforeseen situations:

  • Threaten an employee, customer, or the public;
  • Disrupt or shut down operations; or
  • Cause physical or environmental damage.

What Happens if the Law is Violated?

Violations can be reported via complaint to the Labor Commissioner. A pattern of violations of the Right to Disconnect law would be punishable by a fine of not less than $100. A “pattern of violation” means three or more documented instances of violating the right to disconnect.

Are There Any Exclusions?

This law wouldn’t apply to an employee who is covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement.

The Bill was Introduced Earlier This Year

Assemblymember Matt Haney of San Francisco first introduced the bill, Assembly Bill 2751 in February.

“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. "This is the consequence of a technology that has left us 24/7 available. It shouldn't leave us 24/7 working."

“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,” 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.”

Haney’s office says that research shows that workers have been “healthier, happier, and more productive” since these laws have been passed.

“California’s greatest asset is our highly skilled workforce,” Haney continued. “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.”

The bill has been re-referred to the Committee on Labor and Employment.

This year’s legislative session concludes on August 31, 2024.

Right-to-Disconnect Laws Found Around the Globe

These right-to-disconnect laws have been passed in more than a dozen countries, beginning with France in 2017.

Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Greece, Ireland, Mexico, Italy, and Spain are among the countries that also have enacted such laws.

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