From our offices in Sherman Oaks, we serve clients throughout Southern California.

  1. Home
  2.  → 
  3. Employment Law
  4.  → What is the proposed “right to disconnect” law?

What is the proposed “right to disconnect” law?

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Employment Law

In recent years, work life and personal life have become increasingly intertwined. With more employees able to work remotely, their managers often communicate with them via phone call, text or email.

What if you have a boss who works, or at least thinks about work, late at night and on weekends? Are you obligated to deal with their questions and directives, even when they’re interrupting a family event or just your alone time?

Currently, for exempt employees, there really are no legal sanctions on when employers can contact them regarding a work-related matter. Smart managers know that employees who feel overworked and constantly “on call” generally become less productive and certainly more frustrated, but too many don’t honor these boundaries.

What’s in the proposed law?

One California state representative wants to limit these “after hours” communications. He has introduced a “right to disconnect” bill. While other countries have similar laws, it would be the first of its kind in the U.S. The proposed legislation requires all employers to put a written policy in place that states that employees can ignore after-hours communications from their boss unless there’s an emergency or they involve immediate scheduling changes.

What would the real-life effects be?

Enforcing such a law could be tricky. The current version allows employees to report employers to the state labor commissioner after they violate it multiple times, which could result in a fine. Many employees would hesitate to do that.

The real impact could be in making employers and employees more aware of the need to stay within the parameters of the workday. As the representative notes, “This is not intended to say people can’t work long hours or have an agreement for a contract where they’re on call, but it should be made clear. The problem we have now is the gray area, where an employee is expected to respond all the time when, on paper, they work a 9-to-5 job.”

This potential policy shift is just one example of why all California employees need to be aware of their rights under California’s ever-changing (generally for the better) laws. If you have questions or concerns you haven’t been able to resolve with your employer, having legal guidance can help you protect your rights.