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| 1 minute read

Proposed California Bill Provides Workers the 'Right to Disconnect' From Work

A California state legislator recently introduced a bill designed to ensure employees are permitted to ignore emails, text messages and phone calls from their employers during non-work hours. The proposed bill, AB 2751 authored by Assembly member Matt Haney, would “require a public or private employer to establish a workplace policy that provides employees the right to disconnect from communications from the employer during nonworking hours” unless certain exceptions are met.

Although the bill is still in the early stages of the legislative process, the intent behind the proposed law is straightforward: California employees would have the right to completely disconnect from work outside their standard working hours. The bill would require employers to establish non-working hours by written agreement with employees.

If the employer demonstrates a “pattern of violation” by requiring or expecting an employee to work during the established nonworking hours, the bill says, then the employee could file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner. 

The proposed bill does include narrowly tailored exceptions. An employer presumably would be entitled to expect employees to work during an “emergency,” defined as an “unforeseen situation that threatens an employee, customer, the public, or disrupts or shuts down operations, or causes physical or environmental damage.” Notably, this definition does not include the need to meet a tight deadline, address a customer complaint, or otherwise assist with relatively routine daily tasks during non-work hours. 

The California Chamber of Commerce has already criticized AB 2751, arguing the bill would constitute a step back in workplace flexibility. If the proposed bill becomes law, the implications would be far-reaching. Many employees would likely welcome the change, while others may discover it is impossible and in violation to leave the office at 3 p.m., pick the kids up from school, and then log back in to finish work after dinner. 

Workers who suspect their employer is violating the right-to-disconnect law would be able to complain to the California labor commissioner, whose office would have the power to investigate and fine employers that repeatedly violate the statute, according to the proposed legislation.


labor and employment