Right to Disconnect

A lawmaker in New York City has proposed legislation that would fine companies who required employees to connect electronically after hours. No other city in the United States has a law similar to this.

If a private organization has 10 or more employees, the Right to Disconnect Bill would ban them from requiring employees to respond to texts, e-mails, and other electronic communications outside of their scheduled work hours. The potential fines would range from $250 to $2,500. If an employee chooses to respond, there would be no fine.

I love this idea in theory. I think too many people are stressed and overworked and feel like management expects answers to e-mails all hours and on weekends. Work life balance is not a focus in a lot of organizations. In most businesses, the more productivity they can get out of people, the better, regardless of excessive hours worked.

I am not confident this will pass, though. Too many businesses will be lobbying against it. Even if it does pass, there are some potential enforcement and administration roadblocks. For one, an employee may state that they are willing to always be on call for fear of retaliation in more subtle ways, like a smaller raise or bonus. These consequences would be very tough to prove that it was an actual cause and effect. In addition, how will this be tracked? Will employees need to sign a document that says they are not willing to answer calls after hours or if they are in fact willing to? What if they choose to be available one week but not the next? How will a work schedule be defined? Most exempt employees don't have a defined schedule, but have flexibility in hours as long as their work gets done. What about on-call employees?

It will be interesting to see where this proposal ends up over the next few months. But, I like that a discussion on a national level has been started around this topic.


What do you think of this proposed legislation?