Great news for the overworked people in New York City — you may finally be legally free from taking the office home.
On March 22nd, Brooklyn city council member Rafael Espinal proposed the “Disconnect From Work” bill. The bill would make it illegal for businesses to contact employees via email or instant messenger after work hours (with an exception for those with unconventional circumstances, such as on-call employees).
“There are a lot of New Yorkers out there that don’t know when their work day begins or when their work day ends, because we’re all so tied to our phones,” said Espinal. “You can still work, you can still talk to your boss, but this just is saying that, when you feel like you’ve hit your boiling point and you can’t do it anymore, you’re able to disconnect and decompress for a while.”
In other words, your employer can reach out to you after hours, but if you’re trying to unplug, you’re not obligated to respond.
The proposed bill would apply to businesses with ten or more employees, and would restrict all communication after their scheduled tour of duty, while the employee is on vacation, or when they’re using personal or sick leave.
The bill is currently in review by the council’s Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing Committee and, if passed, violation would cost employers a $50 fine for each employee who does not receive proper notice of their right to disconnect; $250 fine each time an employer requires an employee to check their email/instant messenger after hours; and fines ranging between $500 and $2,500 for retaliating against employees for invoking their their to decompress; all payable to the employee.